Bargains were available at the Feb. 8 auction at Cornerstone Products Inc., and a trip to Durant wasn't even necessary to reap the rewards.
Roughly 154 registered bidders crowded the facility in Durant, as more than 1,000 items were sold. But those present were engaged in bidding wars with international and domestic firms that used technology to participate: Web bidders, 98 in total, made bids from as far away as Perth, Australia.
``We had more of a global market with Webcasting,'' said Scott Mihalic, an auctioneer with Stopol Inc. of Solon, Ohio. Parties from England, Colombia, Argentina and Pakistan weighed in online, while officials from Italy and Canada milled the factory floor during the nearly 10-hour process.
Items like office furniture, skids of light bulbs, pump compartments and extruder bearings were on the catalog, remnants of an enterprise with its roots in Durant since the early 1970s. The firm announced its liquidation under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after a Dec. 1 court ruling.
The meat of the auction was the cache of equipment, roughly 40 late-model Husky, Cincinnati Milacron, HPM and Engel injection molding machines and more than 200 molds. About 110 molds were Cornerstone's, but about 62 are held by outside molders, including two based in Warren, Ohio: Bloom Industries Inc. and Champion Molded Plastic Inc. The bids on the molds were subject to lender approval within 48 hours of the auction.
Still, the approval on the bids was a sore spot with some officials a week later when the bank rejected several.
``The way the bank has orchestrated this whole circus, deals that were thought to be had at the auction were not,'' said one official who spoke on the condition of anonymity in a Feb. 16 telephone interview.
But Stopol officials said it was standard protocol. Unlike the molds, other autioned items, including the presses, were not subject to lender approval.
``We said before auction that everything was subject to bank approval,'' Mihalic said Feb. 16 by telephone. ``All we're doing is what the bankruptcy court asked us to do. Over 75 percent of all the molds that were sold that day [those bids] were accepted. The other 25 percent are in negotiations.''
For Reggie Sullivan, owner, chairman and chief executive officer of Cornerstone, the auction was closure.
``Durant is my hometown. We were fortunate to be able to place a majority of the  employees,'' he said.
Getting the highest bid in some cases proved futile. A 1996 2,200-ton Cincinnati press with a 540-ounce shot size fetched $100,000.
``The steel costs more than that,'' said Jason Farber, vice president of GSC Technology of Champlain, N.Y.
Onlookers said it showed the state of the market, when a machine can go for so little.
Home Design Products nabbed a 2000 Husky 990-ton injection molding machine for $310,000. Officials from HDP showed up looking for specific items.
``I wanted to come out and look at the product. I can get this one now; with a new machine, I have to wait,'' said Jon Eschler, senior project engineer with Home Design Products of Anderson, Ind., an outfit owned by Keter Group of Herzelia, Israel. ``This fits better, timingwise, on this particular product line.''
Not all attendees were from injection molding firms. Officials from vacuum former and blow molder Poly Karts USA Inc. of nearby Calera, Okla., showed up to bid on blenders and grinders.
For one injection molder, the long day proved successful when his was the winning bid on a captive account for the base and lid of a 50-quart trash can.
``Mission accomplished,'' Tom Fitzgerald, president of T.M. Fitzgerald & Associates Inc. of Havertown, Pa., said in a follow-up telephone interview Feb. 9.
``It's a customer of mine that was a customer of Cornerstone's,'' he explained. ``I secured the tool to become the supplier. I'm happy that I went. I'm satisfied with the price I paid.''
New tooling would have been roughly $200,000. Calculating Stopol's fee, state tax and shipping, Fitzgerald will pay just under $80,000.
``I had looked at building this mold before myself,'' he said. ``There wasn't enough volume to justify spending $200,000 on a mold like that.''