Mark Berry launched Mid-America Machining Inc. intending to run a small, contract machine shop.
But as the plastics industry began to reshape itself in the late 1990s, Mid-America shifted its focus and began to grow, tapping into a pool of blow molding expertise in southern Michigan, a region once home to Milacron Inc.'s Uniloy blow molding machine manufacturing center.
During the past three years, Mid-America has expanded into a 55,000-square-foot building, grown from 15 employees to 50 and is adding equipment as it positions itself as a specialist in building blow mold tooling for reciprocating-screw machines.
``We've been very fortunate,'' Berry said in an interview at Mid-America offices in the small Michigan community of Brooklyn. ``When we came into this building three years ago, it felt huge. Now within a year, it'll be full.''
Mid-America closed out 2004 with about $10 million in sales, said marketing Vice President Al Vanover. It has a customer list of about 100 firms and makes molds for packaging items including milk jugs and cleaning products.
The tool shop turns out different types of blow molds but has found its niche through an understanding of the molds best suited to machines using reciprocating-screw technology. The bulk of its design and engineering staff, and many of its mold makers, come from a background in blow molding machine production, he said.
``That's where you can underscore the knowledge of what is needed for one application or the other,'' he said. ``We understand what [the customer] will need from the machine level.''
Mid-America has purchased four machining centers in the past three months, Berry said. It launched a third shift in October to meet demand and Berry said he is seeking more employees.
``We'll see some steady growth, like we've had, but it's ramping up,'' he said. ``The reason we've been able to do well, even with the industry like it's been, is our people. We've been very selective about who we hire.''