Lawrence Austin, the longtime vice president of finance at Miniature Precision Components Inc., has purchased an injection molder of electrical bobbins, Plasti-coil Inc., in Lake Geneva, Wis.
Plasti-coil runs 20 injection molding machines, ranging from 25 to 250 tons of clamping force, including Boys, Engels and Haitians.
It employs 22 people at the 40,000-square-foot factory.
Austin said the molder has been well run, and the company has retained seven core leaders.
He bought Plasti-coil from Craig and Ruth Ferguson, who founded the company in 1985. They have retired. Terms were not disclosed.
Austin was VP of finance at MPC in nearby Walworth, Wis., for more than 30 years. During his tenure, the company grew from $2 million in sales to more than $180 million. MPC won Plastics News' Processor of the Year Award in 2004.
For the past five years, Austin has been chief operating officer of the Walworth State Bank, where he helped them work through the economic crisis. He also learned more about financing — which came in handy when he completed the Plasti-coil acquisition.
Now he is enjoying running a small company again, like MPC was in the early days.
“There's just a lot of opportunity here,” he said. “Everybody knows everybody, and it's just a really nice place to work.”
Plasti-coil molds bobbins used in electrical motors, and other tight-tolerance parts.
“We have a very skilled team of engineers as well as a team of experienced production specialists,” Austin said.
One example is the plant manager, Scott Mercier, a 16-year Plasti-coil veteran. The factory is spotless, Austin said. Mercier has set up a lights-out operation where some presses can run all night or on weekends.
Austin said he spent about four years looking for a company to buy while he was working at the bank. That included contacting companies that were not officially “for sale,” he said. Austin called the Plasti-coil owners for several years, before the Fergusons finally agreed to sell in 2014. They accepted the offer later that year, and the deal closed in July 2015.
Right now Austin is working at the bank, as it wraps up its sale to another community bank. He is set to run Plasti-coil full time starting in February. He said the company does injection molding, insert molding, and overmolding.
He is excited about growing the company, working with existing customers. He wants to create U.S. manufacturing jobs.
A lot of electrical motors and components moved offshore, to China and India, and much of the bobbin industry followed too. Plasti-coil does some exports, but Austin said the company can pick up more global business.
“I see it as an opportunity because of the possibilities of reshoring a lot of these small components and tight-tolerance things that we do,” he said. “A lot of it left and went to China years ago. And as we know, China's got a lot of issues. So we are seeing some quotes and we're working with companies. [There's] one in particular in Vietnam. We've talked to them about doing some projects here.”
Austin, who lives in Walworth, has deep roots in the area. He spent 41 years on the volunteer fire department where he was an EMT, and ended as a captain on the department. Squad calls come at any hour. He resigned that post when he bought Plasti-coil.
“I just knew I couldn't be a good member, and buy the company, and finish up at the bank,” he said.