The HPM plastics and die-casting equipment operation has closed, according to a local government official and three other sources bringing an end to more than 130 years of machinery manufacturing in Mount Gilead, Ohio.
Meanwhile, Christopher Filos, HPM's top executive and owner, has started a wind-turbine company in Columbus, Ohio, called Polaris America LLC. The new company is staffed by several former HPM engineering and sales executives.
Filos could not be reached for comment. But HPM America issued a statement saying it temporarily suspended operations in Mount Gilead on Jan. 4, due to the current negative economic conditions in the markets, which are outside our control.
According to several sources, Dec. 18 was the last day for employees at the 400,000-square-foot HPM America LLC plant, which made injection molding machines, sheet extrusion lines and die-casting machines. In recent years, HPM began machining components for wind turbines, to tap into the growing wind-power market, and the company began selling its own brand of smaller turbines for residential and light commercial use.
The statement said: We hope that this situation will change, once current economic conditions improve during the upcoming year. Meanwhile, the company is forwarding customer calls to HPM-approved suppliers, and working to fill all outstanding orders from its New Jersey office, according to the statement.
Tom Elkin, assistant Morrow County prosecutor, said there may be a handful of people at the plant working on wind turbines. But the front office is closed, and for all intents and purposes, the factory's shut down, he said. It is closed down. The front gate is padlocked.
Two other sources said there also appears to be some activity there for the Taylor's Towing business, which stores several large tractor-trailer rigs beside the factory. But the main entrance is closed and there are no front-office people in the building, they said. The sources spoke on the condition they would not be named.
All appearances would suggest that they have closed down, one source said. Calls to HPM's main telephone number reached an answering machine.
HPM had deep roots in Mount Gilead, a small town in central Ohio, where the company was founded in 1877 to make apple presses. Later, HPM became one of the pioneering U.S. companies to manufacture injection molding machines.
In 2001, Taylor's Industrial Services LLC bought the assets of HPM, just before HPM filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Filos was the top executive of both Taylor's Industrial Services of Tinton Falls, N.J., and its HPM division. Taylor's Towing is another unit of Taylor's Industrial Services.
The closing did not surprise local government officials, because employment had dwindled down at HPM as the machinery market declined and the company faced mounting debt.
Huntington National Bank has sued, seeking the repayment of $13.7 million in loans. Morrow County is seeking foreclosure for more than $700,000 in unpaid personal property taxes against Taylor's Industrial Services.
Elkin said an affiliated business, Taylor's Property Management LLC, is current on real estate taxes after making payments.
On Dec. 8, General Electric Capital Corp. won a default judgment for $1.2 million against Taylor's Industrial Services, Taylor's Property Management and Filos over debts for leased metalworking equipment.
At the NPE2009 trade show in June, HPM America displayed a wind turbine but no plastics equipment at its booth.
On the Polaris America Web site, Filos is listed as president and CEO. Other top officials of Polaris America include Gerry Sposato, vice president of sales and marketing (the same title he held at HPM America); John Rexford, project development director (he was HPM's product development director); Richard Eichler, director of procurement and operations (HPM's operations director); and Kenneth Eichhorn, senior project engineer (HPM's engineering director).
The other Polaris American officials listed are Michael Dorsten, senior project engineer, and Michael Paramore, senior project and quality engineering manager.
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