After almost 20 years in the rotational molding market, Larry Paulson is flying solo with the creation of Phoenix Plastics LLC in Little Falls, Minn.
``I wanted to venture off and control my own destiny,'' Paulson said in a recent phone interview. The 56-year-old industry veteran has 18 years of management experience with three Minnesota rotomolders, most recently serving as chief operating officer of Benson-based Custom Roto-Mold Inc.
Phoenix opened its doors in December and now operates three machines and employs 10 in a newly built plant measuring almost 14,000 square feet. The firm expects to add four or five employees when it adds a second production shift in February.
Initially, Phoenix will supply the marine industry, with Crestliner Boats accounting for about 75 percent of first-year sales. Phoenix is molding pontoon-boat seating and consoles for Crestliner, which operates an assembly plant less than a mile away from the Phoenix site.
Longer-term, Paulson said he hopes Crestliner will account for only half of his firm's sales. Phoenix already is doing work on golf-cart bodies. All of Phoenix's products are made of linear low density polyethylene.
In spite of record-high resin prices and low growth in the marine market, Paulson said he sees an opportunity for the ``shakeout'' that he believes soon will hit the rotomolding field.
``I think there's going to be a lot more [rotomolders] looking to do niche work, and that will reduce the overall number of companies,'' said Paulson, who is the firm's sole owner. ``You'll see growth in the number of molders who are tied in to their one or two largest customers.''
Tom Rice, with more than 30 years of rotomolding experience, serves as operations manager.
Phoenix also received a full 10-year tax abatement from the state of Minnesota when it opened.
Paulson said he's already considering an expansion in early 2007 that would double the plant's size and add two machines. Total sales for 2006 are expected to be about $2 million, he added.