A year out of bankruptcy, The Mill, as Milacron LLC is affectionately known, is in much stronger financial shape, thanks to much lower debt.
Now Milacron, like the rest of the plastics machinery industry, faces a global capital-equipment market marked by an uneven recovery from the Great Recession: Demand is strong in developing markets, but remains slow and spotty in the U.S. and much of Europe.
Machine makers need global production to compete, and Milacron is well-positioned with plants in the U.S., Germany, China and India.
The Page 1 story in this week's issue recaps the story of Milacron's financial woes, which go back a number of years. Company officials now are looking forward, building what they dub New Milacron, owned by private equity firm Avenue Capital Group LLC.
Since Milacron is privately held now, the company is not releasing many numbers. But top executives Dennis Smith and Dave Lawrence stress that the machinery maker has a strong balance sheet. That's what Chapter 11 can do for you.
Avenue Capital specializes in firms with distressed debt, including those in bankruptcy. Smith and Lawrence said Avenue is supporting the plan to reinvest money into the machinery operations, and Milacron will turn a profit this year. That last happened in 2000.
Milacron seems to be in solid hands. Its leaders say customers and suppliers have stuck with the machinery. So have employees, and Milacron even has brought back some laid-off workers.
That's good. Milacron plays an important role as the sole U.S.-owned, broad-line manufacturer of primary plastics equipment.
Milacron, founded in 1884 as a Cincinnati maker of milling machines, has adapted to economic changes in the past, getting into plastics injection molding machines in 1968. Thirty years later, Milacron sold off its machine tool business to focus only on plastics.
Along the way Milacron developed important new technology in its fields of injection and blow molding machines, extruders, structural foam machines and DME mold components.
In recent years, Milacron has faced issues of finance and debt, even as its home U.S. market crumbled. In 2004, Milacron avoided a potential bankruptcy with a last-minute refinancing of bonds coming due. Last year, the global recession and credit crunch caught up with the company, leading to the Chapter 11 filing.
Milacron came back out after just five months in bankruptcy. A full recovery will take much longer for the economy as well as the Batavia, Ohio, company. But Milacron seems to be on the right track.