To celebrate Plastics News' 20th anniversary in 2009, we continue with our weekly countdown of the Top 20 issues of lasting impact, as reported in our pages.
The series will end with the No. 1 issue in our 20th Anniversary special edition March 16.
No. 10: Bankruptcies & plant closures
Some grew too fast, overextending themselves. Others ran into tough economic times and plain bad luck. Some relied too heavily on a single customer and got burned. Others were simply mismanaged.
Over the course of the past two decades, some of the biggest and best-known plastics processing companies have crumbled and dissolved, been sold off, changed their identities, or entered bankruptcy protection. A few, such as Moll Industries Inc. and Trend Technologies Inc. re-emerged, to live again; many others were not so fortunate.
Some bankruptcies and plant closures caused greater reverberations than others, given the history and social significance of the companies involved. As we peered through old back issues, here are a few that jump off the page.
The first such story we ever reported, in our debut issue March 6, 1989, dealt with the appointment of a federal bankruptcy trustee to oversee the Maine-based, optical-media injection molder Shape Inc., which eventually disappeared altogether.
Over the years, during tough economic times, many industry workers have been caught in the financial crossfire. Dave Barnes, a former molding technician at the Rubbermaid Home Products plant in Wooster, Ohio, captured the feelings of such victims in one brief quote. In attendance as the housewares giant auctioned off the equipment at that facility in June 2004, Barnes told Plastics News reporter Bill Bregar: ``Depression. Disgust. It's unnecessary.''
Bregar described the event as ``an all-day funeral service for one of the largest plastics factories in the United States.'' More than that, Rubbermaid was the heart and soul of Wooster, and the shutdown of that 850-person plant ripped the very fabric of the city of 25,000.
Just months prior, a similar large auction signaled the end to Sunbeam Products Inc.'s showcase, 750,000-square-foot molding facility in Hattiesburg, Miss., as the small-appliance maker outsourced production.
The cutthroat automotive industry offers more examples of financial collapse than virtually any other sector witness such firms as Collins & Aikman Corp., Blackhawk Automotive Plastics Inc., Blue Water Automotive Inc., Plastech Engineered Products Inc., Venture Holdings Co. LLC and Key Plastics LLC (twice).
Others simply were shocking, to see how far the mighty had fallen. Courtesy Corp. completed a stunning fall from grace when it went from Plastics News' 1998 Processor of the Year to Chapter 11 four years later. Notable family-owned firms from Mulay Plastics Inc. and Modern Plastics Corp. to Erie Plastics Corp. hit hard times, as well.
Unfortunately, PN's pages today again are full of tales of bankruptcies, closures and financial woe, but some innovative firms continue to win. And history shows us that the pendulum will swing again back to prosperity, even while leaving the ashes of some well-known companies in its wake.
Grace is editor and associate publisher, and one of Plastics News' original staffers.