Custom injection molder SPI Industries has purchased an industrial blow molding factory in Coloma, Mich., from Modern Plastics Corp., which has shut down after 71 years in business.
Modern Plastics closed its injection and compression molding factory in Benton Harbor, Mich., after its bank funding was cut off in July. Walter Miller founded Modern Plastics in 1937, and the company was still owned by the Miller family. The firm added extrusion blow molding in the late 1950s.
John Doster, president and owner of South Bend, Ind.-based SPI Industries, said SPI is buying only the blow molding operation 10 blow molding machines at the Coloma plant.
``We're going to have saved 25 jobs,'' Doster said in a telephone interview.
Doster bought the Coloma factory from the Miller family in a deal completed Aug. 15. He declined to disclose the purchase price.
SPI Industries should generate total sales of about $10 million this year about $7 million from its injection molding in South Bend and $3 million from the Coloma blow molding plant, according to Doster. SPI employs 50 in South Bend.
Modern Plastics was one of the oldest U.S. plastics processors. In the past, it was a major force in the industry and region, Doster said.
``The Miller family, over the years, has been responsible for creating hundreds of jobs in southwestern Michigan, which shouldn't be overlooked,'' he said. ``You have to recognize what this company has done for this area over the years.''
SPI Industries established a separate entity, SPI Blow Molding LLC, to acquire the Coloma factory its first move into blow molding.
The new owner will retain what Doster called a ``very strong'' team of blow molding veterans at Coloma. Ed Trapp, who has worked at Modern Plastics for more than 40 years, will remain as vice president and general manager. ``He is the backbone of the technical capability of the Coloma plant, and is going to continue to be here and lead this operation in the future,'' Doster said.
Don Patzer worked at Modern for 35 years, most of them as sales manager for the blow molding division. He stays on as director of marketing for the blow molding and injection molding business of SPI Industries.
Patzer said the factory has very low employee turnover. People employed in middle management positions have an average of 25 years of service, he said.
Patzer said the Coloma plant's markets include medical equipment, business machines, agriculture and hardware products.
Modern Plastics suffered a blow last fall when Hill-Rom Co. Inc. pulled its blow molding. Modern lost work blow molding parts for Hill-Rom hospital beds.
``There are segments of medical furniture that they lost, but there are still some that remains and we would hope to expand on that,'' Doster said.
SPI Industries, founded by a toolmaker in 1952, today runs 20 injection molding machines, ranging in clamping force from 50-500 tons. The company does close-tolerance custom molding and prototyping, specializing in nylons, engineering resins and thermoplastic elastomers.
Doster bought SPI in 1990.
SPI Industries got to know Modern Plastics several years ago, when Doster decided to use Modern as a supplier and partner even though they both make injection molded parts. The plan was, he said, that Modern Plastics was a kind of business interruption insurance policy.
``It's always healthy to have another molder, with similar sized equipment, for disaster recovery planning,'' Doster said. Luckily, SPI never encountered a disaster. But the relationship between the firms grew even as they remained separate businesses.
``The two companies have worked closely together, which led us to evaluate the blow molding portion of Modern Plastics when it became apparent that the overall operation was not going to continue,'' Doster said.
SPI Industries also is buying a piece of U.S., plastics history. Plastics historian Glenn Beall called Modern Plastics ``one of the first, reliable industrial blow molders,'' back when that industry got started in the late 1960s.
``They were a strong engineering company, so you could send them a job that was challenging,'' said Beall, who ran a plastics engineering and design firm.