Fox Blocks, a division of Nebraska-based Airlite Plastics Co. that manufactures insulated concrete form (ICF) products for the construction industry, will acquire major assets of a one-time partner turned rival, Reward Wall Systems Inc.
The acquisition will give Fox Blocks the third largest market share — up from fifth — among ICF manufacturers in North America when it takes effect Feb. 15, according to Mike Kennaw, vice president of sales and marketing.
Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Airlite is a privately held, family-owned business that dates back to 1946 in Omaha. Reward Wall Systems, also located in Omaha, opened in 1998 and used Airlite as a contract manufacturer for its ICFs for almost 10 years.
ICFs are plastic forms that are filled with poured concrete and become part of the wall structure. They provide a layer of insulation that improves energy efficiency, disaster resistance, moisture prevention and sound proofing.
“We were making ICFs for six other companies when the business decision was made to make our own product to sell under our own brand,” Kennaw said. “We gave our customers a two-year notice.”
In 2006, Airlite introduced the Fox Blocks ICF wall system, which weathered the recession and came out stronger than some of its competitors. The division fared well in Canada during the U.S. economic downturn and now is seeing business pick up in the states' residential construction market as well as the commercial and industrial sectors.
Kennaw said more single-family houses, multi-unit complexes, churches, schools, military operation systems, and even post offices are being built with ICFs, particularly in areas vulnerable to tornados and hurricanes and close to airports and railroads. Demand for better thermal performance also has driven some ICF government projects.
“In the last four years we've experienced pretty phenomenal growth,” Kennaw said. “The owners of Airlite really invested in the business and we grew from one manufacturer in Omaha to now partnering with 12 other contract manufacturers throughout North America. We're experiencing 30 percent growth over a year ago.”
At the same time, Reward Wall Systems has been working hard to maintain market share for its ICFs, Kennaw added.
“Earlier this year we were approached by an official of Reward Wall. … He approached us because of the past business relationship,” Kennaw said.
The parties agreed on a acquisition price for tools, materials, patents, intellectual property and branding. Reward Wall Systems makes its panels out of expanded polystyrene.
“They have a few products that we'll include with what we currently have, but the real key to all of this was customer base and market share,” Kennaw said. “They have a solid customer base.”
About 5 employees of Reward Wall System will transfer to Fox Block's facility in Omaha, which is part of Airlite's 900-person workforce. Airlite specializes in several product lines, ranging from plastic packaging and foam shipping containers to nylon pressure tubing and polyolefin orthopedic sheets for casts, splints and braces.
Corporate sales are estimated at $120 million, according to Plastics News' 2013 ranking of North American injection molders.