Protomold Co., a Maple Plain, Minn.-based injection molder that specializes in quick turnaround and low-volume production, is planning a 20,000-square-foot expansion in its hometown that will facilitate exporting to Canada and a 25,000-square-foot plant in the United Kingdom.
``We'll probably be building in the city of Telford, [England],'' said President and Chief Executive Officer Brad Cleveland. ``A lease hasn't been signed yet but probably will be by early July.''
Both expansions are the result of rising orders in foreign markets. The Minnesota expansion will accommodate increased demand from Canadian designers, and the European facility will cater to the British and German markets.
Telford was chosen for its central location in England's ``plastics corridor.''
``A significant number of injection molders are there,'' said Cleveland. He added that the city had been very helpful in finding Protomold a site.
Both expansions are funded by a $2.5 million equity investment from Private Capital Management Inc. One of the agreement's provisions is that PCM President Brian Smith will serve on Protomold's board of directors.
Protomold already has hired three workers for the U.K. plant, and Cleveland wants 10 workers in place there by the year's end, 40 by next year, and 100 by 2008. In Minnesota, Protomold employs 90 but he hopes to nearly triple that in the next few years.
``Job addition is constant,'' he said. ``These are just estimates. We'll do what we can.''
But, he added, Protomold's six-year growth rate has been good; the company has produced a profit every year since 2001. It generated sales of $11 million in 2004 and $6 million in 2003.
The company's strength is in exploiting an undeveloped niche - producing models and doing small runs very quickly, he said.
``If we can make it, it's hard to find anyone who can do it faster. We can't make the most complex or largest models, but the size and complexity of what we can do is improving every day,'' Cleveland said.
Those improvements have included cutting its turnaround time by creating proprietary software to take a design from computer-aided concept to product in much less time.
Protomold will not receive tax incentives in England or Minnesota. The firm might have applied for some incentives in England, but, Cleveland said, ``it takes too long to get them.''
``By the time we finish the paperwork, the plant will be operational.''