Middleburg Heights, Ohio-based U.S. Fence Inc. has agreed to buy vinyl profile extruder Crane Fencing Solutions from Crane Building Products, for an undisclosed sum.
The deal was expected to close Oct. 31, when Crane was to close its Mason, Ohio, plant. U.S. Fence will consolidate much of the plant's equipment into its 500,000-square-foot vinyl extrusion plant in Bulls Gap, Tenn.
The shutdown leaves 82 workers without jobs. The 200,000-square-foot Mason facility is for sale, Stu Kemper, Crane Building Products president, said in an Oct. 28 telephone interview.
It is the first major facility closing in the 60-year history of Crane Group Cos., Kemper said.
``It's a difficult process when it affects so many people,'' he said.
Though the decision to exit the vinyl fencing category was difficult, choosing U.S. Fence as its buyer was not, Kemper said. U.S. Fence is the largest manufacturer and distributor of wood and vinyl fencing in North America.
``They have a strong presence in home centers,'' he said. ``It was a good match.''
U.S. Fence is likely to keep some of the acquired brands, and eliminate others, said Gary Williams, general manager for U.S. Fence in Bulls Gap.
``There are some commonalities between product offerings. We'll be incorporating some of their profiles,'' Williams said.
In 2005, U.S. Fence invested $18.6 million to expand operations, including $16.2 million in new equipment for the Bulls Gap facility.
This is the second major addition to the Bulls Gap plant this year. In the spring, U.S. Fence bought a vinyl panel extrusion business from Atlanta-based Georgia Gulf Corp. It was a Royal Group Inc. operation that manufactured parts for outdoor sheds.
``It's going to help us to penetrate additional markets, and it provides us with a broader product offering,'' Williams said.
In addition to vinyl, the company also sells wood and aluminum fence products, as well as accessories like arbors and trellises.
Crane acquired Vinyl Visions in the late 1990s and changed the name a couple of years ago to Crane Fencing Solutions. The category had become tougher to compete in throughout the recent economic downturn, according to Kemper.
``It's a very competitive, difficult category,'' he said. ``It requires a tremendous amount of focus on low-cost manufacturing. And we tended in our other businesses to focus on higher-end, niche-type categories.
``There are a lot of people in the game and the category is shrinking over the past couple of years, and certainly at the retail end,'' Kemper added.
Crane will continue to participate in fencing with its composite fence product made by subsidiary Wilmington, Ohio-based TimberTech Ltd. and its stone look-alike, BellaStone, made by Columbus-based Crane Performance Siding.
In addition to TimberTech and Crane Peformance Siding, Crane Building Products also oversees Atlanta door and frame components maker Evermark; Columbus custom profile extruder Crane Plastics; and Santiago, Chile-based vinyl siding extruder and building products distributor Crane Chile.