Grounded for nearly a year, the plastic pink flamingo of Union Products Inc. fame is taking flight again, with a western New York owner.
Injection molder HMC International LLC of Rome, N.Y., has purchased the iconic symbol, as well as all the molds, machinery and intellectual property related to the bird, according to HMC owner and Chief Executive Officer J.C. Waszkiewicz III.
``One of the perks of acquiring the original pink flamingo is the opportunity to have a nationally recognized brand,'' Waszkiewicz said in a May 31 telephone interview.
He said HMC acquired 20 blow molding machines, four injection molding machines and molds for about 500 products for an undisclosed price from Dennis Plante.
Plante had owned Leominster, Mass.-based Union Products, which gained worldwide fame for Don Featherstone's creation of a plastic pink flamingo. Union Products ceased production in June, blaming increased competition and rising resin prices, and it closed its doors for good in October.
HMC already has 24 injection molding machines, ranging in size from 45-550 tons of clamping force. The additional equipment from Union Products will add capacity and enable the company to enter blow molding.
Waszkiewicz said the expansion at HMC could create 50-100 jobs in the next three to five years. The plant currently employs 50, which is a 40 percent increase since he acquired the company in 2006.
Meantime, Waszkiewicz said he is producing the Featherstone original at an undisclosed U.S. outsourced site.
``Some of the products are already in production due to outsourcing, but we expect to be in full production in the next 60 days,'' Waszkiewicz said. He said the pink flamingo, along with about 149 of the 500 products Union Products used to sell, now will be produced by HMC and sold by its sister company, Faster-Form Corp., of New Hartford, N.Y.
``We are simply narrowing the lines from 500 to a ballpark figure of 150. Because many of the items are outdated, we are taking on their best sellers,'' he said. HMC also may update some of the designs, he said.
Some of the former Union Products equipment that HMC is not keeping will be sold at a June 12 auction in Leominster. That includes about 10 blow molding machines, four injection presses, granulators and other auxiliary equipment.
Waszkiewicz said that he acquired Harding Manufacturing Corp. in 2006, and changed the name of the 20-year-old custom injection molder to HMC International. The company makes parts for cars, pumps hydraulics, optical lenses, recreational equipment and electrical components.
Harding is one of eight businesses Waszkiewicz has acquired in the last 10 years, and each has added a distinct product line to the mix. He said his parents started Faster-Form Corp. in 1948 to support the florist industry. Since then, they have expanded and evolved into an international supplier serving the floral, gift, decorative accessory and point-of-purchase display markets.
Waszkiewicz said the company has been growing its line of plastics. Union Products joins two nationally recognized brands - Harding Floral Containers and Franklin China. Seven years ago, the purchase of Harding Floral Containers of Worcester, Mass., provided it with 60 molds for plastic flower containers. Four years ago, it added Franklin China of Westminster, Pa., to add 75 more plastic containers, which were complementary.
Adding Harding Manufacturing enabled the company to control costs and produce a line of custom products.
Waszkiewicz said Union provided plenty of synergies for his company, noting it was able to acquire hanging baskets, planters and outdoor pots.
``Our injection molder has been in business for 20 years,'' he said. ``Now, we are expanding into blow molding and custom blow molding for the New England region.''
Faster-Form markets 11 different lines, according to Waszkiewicz. Its acrylic displays are used by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., he said.
``We are already talking about having a 50-year anniversary party [of the birth of the Featherstone flamingo] in central New York. The local community is getting pretty excited,'' said Waszkiewicz, who is also a councilman in New Hartford.
And although Union Products is gone, Leominster also plans to celebrate the flamingo anniversary.
``You'll have to wait and see - that's why we are the plastic pioneer city of the world - it's because of our innovations and another generation will love the new pink flamingo,'' Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella said.
The mayor said that city will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the plastic pink flamingo June 23 and is planning a major announcement about the future of what has become a symbol for the city.
``The pink flamingo is 50 and he will go through a midlife crisis, but he will come back,'' he said.
Mazzarella said the closure of the Union Products plant forced city leaders to rethink the role of the flamingo in the city's future.