Marysville, Mich.-based Blue Water Automotive Systems Inc. is investing more than $10 million to update and add equipment to its injection molding plant in St. Clair, Mich. - one of three plants the company announced it would close last November.
Blue Water picked up two major programs from a Big Three automaker. One of the contracts came about after another St. Clair injection molder, Pine River Plastics Inc., went bankrupt and shut down.
The key to Blue Water's success in navigating the treacherous U.S. automotive market has been the company's ability to maintain fiscal discipline, said Michael Lord, Blue Water's president and chief executive officer, in a Sept. 28 telephone interview.
There are several elements involved, Lord said, including having a competitive cost structure, disciplined pricing and an ability to convince original equipment manufacturers that the supplier can get the job done.
``You have to be tight financially,'' he said. ``You have to be able to demonstrate all of that to the OEMs, otherwise they're not going to give you business.''
The news seemed bleak at the time Blue Water announced it was closing three plants, and two facilities did close. Now, less than a year later, the company is adding molding capacity above and beyond what it had with the shuttered plants in Lexington, Mich., and Wauseon, Ohio. It acquired the Wauseon plant in its 2006 purchase of the interior trim business of Clinton, Mass.-based Injectronics Inc.
``We didn't get rid of the machinery. We just moved it to the rest of the operations,'' Lord said. ``We ended up using, literally, all of the presses that we had. Essentially, we just lost real estate.
``We cut costs back and invested heavily in our existing plants. It is not an accident we got new business.''
The workforce is strong as well, he said.
``The number of people we lost was more than made up in recruitment in the core Michigan area,'' he said. ``We have more people in total employment than we had nine months ago.''
Blue Water employs about 1,500. It operates three injection molding plants in St. Clair; three more in Michigan in Caro, Howell and Port Huron; and plants in Burlington, N.C.; and Tultitlan, Mexico. The firm also has a tooling operation in Leominster, Mass.
Blue Water is owned by New York-based financial group KPS Special Situations Fund LP. Annual sales are about $200 million. The company makes parts used in air-flow management, interior trim and value-added assemblies.