The term “win-win” is used and misused in many walks of life — business, sports, politics — but it holds true for a recent deal between plastics injection molding veterans Barry Stiles and Jeff Applegate.
In December, Applegate bought Houston injection molding firm B-Side Plastics Inc. from Stiles and renamed the business as Texas Injection Molding LLC. Applegate had been president of Blackwell Plastics Inc. — another Houston-based injection molder — but was looking for the chance to own his own company.
Stiles was looking to devote more time to marketing the TrueGrid paver, an injection molded product that's designed as an environmentally friendly alternative to concrete and asphalt.
TrueGrid is made of recycled high density polyethylene resin and can be used for stormwater management, Stiles said in a July 29 phone interview. Stiles designed and patented the product after seeing similar applications being used in Europe.
“In Europe, this kind of product is a necessity because of population density and lack of land,” he explained. “I thought
I could design a better and more robust mouse trap.”
Stiles — who opened B-Side in 2000 — added that it was important for him that the product be made from recycled plastic.
“The driving purpose [in using recycled resin] is to remove toxins from the environment and keep the product out of oceans,” he said.
So far, commercial parking has been the biggest end market for TrueGrid, in such applications as lots used for overnight truck parking. Other potential uses include erosion control, landscaping and parks and recreational areas. Stiles and Applegate are continuing to work together, as TIM is one of the molders that Stiles has contracted with to make TrueGrid.
In a July 29 phone interview, Applegate said he had been aware of Stiles' firm while at Blackwell, but the two companies were not really competitors. Since making the acquisition, Applegate has almost tripled the size of the firm's work force to its current total of 65.
“This is a good time to invest in manufacturing,” he said. “‘Made in U.S.A.' means something again and the economy is turning around a little bit. And the Texas market is very strong.”
TIM added to this growth in June when it bought five new injection molding machines and several pieces of auxiliary equipment. The machines range from 30-750 tons of clamping force and include two new Milacron MT servo hydraulic toggle machines. Applegate said TIM now has 15 machines and has room for two more at its 20,000-square-foot location.
Markets served by TIM include electronics and business equipment, food and beverage, life science/medical and energy and oilfields. Applegate also is the founder of Gulf Coast Medical Device manufacturers — a Houston-area group formed to help local companies work together — and is the author of “Good to Great Families,” a book that applies business principles to raising a family.
Stiles and Applegate were brought together by Terry Minnick, owner of mergers and acquisitions firm Molding Business Services in Florence, Mass. Minnick had known Applegate for several years and knew that he was looking to own his own molding company.
“We've sold more than 60 molding companies now, and every deal is a little different,” Minnick said by phone July 30. “Brokers like us are kind of matchmakers. In this deal, both [Stiles and Applegate] liked each other and got along, and they were able to work it out.”
Minnick added that the reason that Stiles wanted to sell his firm “wasn't because he was tired of injection molding, but that he wanted to pursue a new opportunity — that's what American entrepreneurship is all about.”