Ron Embree, who bought an Arkansas injection molding plant slated for closure by Moll Industries Inc., said the ownership change was smooth and the factory didn't miss a beat for its biggest customer, Whirlpool Corp.
Embree also said he has no plans to buy any other plastics factories from Moll. For now, he is concentrating on serving Whirlpool from Fort Smith, Ark., where the plastics plant molds crisper trays, front covers, components for ice makers and other parts.
On Oct. 27, Moll had announced it would close the site, as well as factories in La Vergne, Tenn., and New Braunfels, Texas, after failing to reach an agreement on pricing with Whirlpool. Embree, a former Moll president who had run the Fort Smith operation, purchased that plant in a deal that closed Nov. 30. He took over Dec. 1.
He said the plant never closed down, and no molds were moved out of the operation.
Embree, who declined to give terms of the deal, has renamed the business River Bend Industries LLC. Financial backing came from First National Bank of Fort Smith and Palomino Capital LP, a merchant bank in Dallas.
The new company has hired former employees of Moll, and now has 132 workers - about the same number as when Moll announced the plant closing.
``Our plans, by the end of January, will be 150 people on our payroll,'' he said. During busy periods, the company will use about 25 or 30 temporary employees.
River Bend has 50 injection molding machines, with clamping forces of 100-850 tons. The company does gas-assisted injection molding, in-mold decorating, welding and post-molding decoration such as pad printing and silk screening.
Whirlpool makes side-by-side refrigerators, ice makers and trash compactors at a plant in Fort Smith. Whirlpool has been moving some of the refrigerator assembly to its plant in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, in recent years. Embree said Whirlpool has kept appliance assembly jobs in North America.
``In appliance, we're fortunate that it's just moving to Mexico and not to China,'' he said. ``I think you have to give Whirlpool credit for being a step ahead for planning for that competition and so far, being able to fend off some of that the best they can, from [South] Korea and China.''
Embree said River Bend will go slow on its own plans in Mexico, but he probably will look at a plant there in the future.
Embree said he left Dallas-based Moll around April of this year after ``a difference of opinion in the direction of the business'' with Moll's owner, Highland Capital Management LP, a Dallas investment firm.
Although Whirlpool's Fort Smith refrigerator plant is the main customer for River Bend Industries, Embree said the molding factory also supplies parts for other Whirlpool operations. Embree said other customers for River Bend Industries include Husqvarna Group, which makes chain saws, string trimmers, leaf blowers and other products, and industrial and automotive battery maker Exide Technologies Inc.