Fortco Plastics Holdings Inc. of Portland, Ind., has nearly doubled its operating footprint in the past year, all of it in blow molding.
In May, it acquired Springdale Specialty Plastics Co. from Pitt Penn Oil Co. in Creighton, Pa. Pitt Penn Oil specializes in blending and packaging liquids for the automotive industry.
The move got Pitt Penn Oil out of blow molding containers so that it can concentrate on its core business under new owner Industrial Enterprises of America. Industrial Enterprises of America sold the blow molding operation for $2.5 million.
Fortco Plastics officials renamed the operation Fortco Pittsburgh. It will continue to serve the needs of Pitt Penn Oil from its 65,000-square-foot plant, and Fortco is adding equipment.
Fortco Plastics President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Seal said his company will refurbish four blow molding machines and will add two more, which the firm bought from Graham Engineering Corp. of York, Pa.
``We're thinking we'll be able to grow with Pitt Penn and in the whole Northeast area of the country,'' Seal said in a July 13 telephone interview.
In June, Fortco Plastics began operating a 46,000-square-foot plant in Grand Prairie, Texas, near Dallas. That operation so far is blow molding concentrate containers for PepsiCo bottling plants.
Fortco Plastics will move three or four machines out of Portland, Ind., to Grand Prairie; the firm also will move in two additional machines it purchased from Graham. Seal said Fortco's Dallas operation will grow from 12 to nearly 60 employees during the next six months. Fortco employs 170 at its other two locations.
Fortco originally was part of Fort Recovery Industries Inc., a zinc and aluminum die caster in Fort Recovery, Ohio. Fort Recovery entered blow molding in 1969 when it bought the blow molding division of Borg-Warner Corp. Fort Recovery's plastics business split from the metals in 2001.
``Between Fort Recovery and Fortco, we had two businesses that were so different,'' Seal explained. ``We felt that they were worth more sold separately than they were together. We felt that if we could build them up separately, it would give people opportunities to grow, and the business an opportunity to grow. We wanted to build up plastics. We wanted to do something with it apart from the hardware business. It worked out real well.''
In 2004, private investment firm Hatch Street Capital LLC of St. Louis purchased majority ownership in the entire company, which had been held by Seal; Steve Jetter, Fortco Plastics' vice president of engineering; and two silent investors. Fortco Plastics Holdings Inc. was created and Fortco Plastics and Wabash Plastics, a joint venture formed in 1995, became subsidiaries. The four original owners still have an ownership stake.
Wabash Plastics does clean room in-house container manufacturing for joint venture partner Arch Chemicals Inc., for its facility in Mesa, Ariz.
For now, Seal is relieved to play in plastics, which he said seems more insulated from foreign competition, at least in his company's markets.
``The hardware business was so subject to foreign competition and so labor intensive,'' he said. ``In plastics, it's just not the case. It's hard competition, sure, but it's domestic. And it's a level playing field, so that makes a tremendous difference.''