In just a few months, National Composites LLC, a manufacturer of fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) and thermoformed products, has grown from a single-plant operation in Owosso, Mich., serving the marine and hospitality markets to a company with four plants and diverse capabilities and customers.
The family- and employee-owned company acquired three businesses this year in the Midwest that manufacture products and parts for the medical, heavy equipment, agriculture, transportation, and fire and safety markets.
National Composites started its buying spree in January with Molded Plastics Industries Inc. (MPI) in Holt, Mich., and Excel Pattern Works Inc. in Dearborn, Mich., the latter of which was an asset purchase to form Excel Pattern & Tool, also in Owosso.
Then in June, National Composites acquired Sunrise Fiberglass LLC in Wyoming, Minn. The business designed and produced the first U.S.-made fiberglass luge sleds with 3M for the 1992 U.S. Olympics team.
Now based in Troy, Mich., where it has corporate offices, National Composites was handling all production from a 90,000-square-foot plant in Owosso called Great Lake Composites, where it makes everything from helm stands and dock boxes to walk-in bathtubs and restaurant booths for the marine, recreation and hospitality markets.
The business generated about $5.75 million in sales last year, Chief Operating Officer Adam Fenton said in a phone interview, adding he expects sales to more than triple in 2020 following its acquisition streak, which isn't over.
The acquisitions are part of a long-term plan to strategically target companies that complement National Composites as the umbrella company, Fenton said.
"Our goal for this year — although we're hit a little by COVID I think it's still ascertainable — is to surpass $20 million in sales," Fenton said.
When the company added MPI in Holt, it gained a two-facility operation that opened in 1974 and manufactures FRP products as well as vacuum and thermoformed products such as interior and exterior panels and components for the medical, military and specialty vehicle markets.
MPI facilities, which are ISO-certified, total 60,000 square feet for molding as well as component installation and assembly.
National Composites also bought Excel Pattern, which specializes in patterns, production tooling, production fixtures and prototyping, in January to expand its capabilities. The Excel assets were moved to a site in Owosso, which National Composites had previously purchased, to form Excel Pattern & Tool.
"We purchased all the Excel equipment and thankfully their top programmers and engineers relocated and are now working for us at Excel Pattern & Tool in Owosso," Fenton said.
Previous production work from that building was transferred to Great Lakes Composites to make space for Excel.
"It has been a big shuffle," Fenton said.
Then, in June, National Composites acquired Sunrise Fiberglass, which has been in operation since 1968 and has open and closed molding capabilities and specializes in the fabrication and final product assembly of complex components and assemblies.
Fenton said National Composites now has four strategically located plants in the Midwest and each has multiple capabilities and staff members who are career fiberglass specialists. The company says its approach to growth can be summed up as "small plant focus with big company resources."
"We started with one single plant in Owosso," Fenton said of the Great Lakes Composites facility it purchased in 2017 from Wasaki Composites. "The first growth phase was to fill up that plant, not to capacity, but enough to learn all the different processes and get a better understanding of fiberglass and the market and the different segments and molding methods."
Great Lakes Composites initially supplied a local pontoon company, Fenton said, but it has grown and now counts almost every big pontoon manufacturer in the Midwest as a customer.
"Our next big step was to expand on the capability front, which is why we targeted the tooling side with Excel Pattern. And we wanted to expand into compression molding, traditional [resin transfer molding] and thermoforming, and get into other markets, which we did with the acquisition of MPI. That got us into ISO-certified markets with military and specialty vehicles as well as molding methods we weren't doing here at Great Lakes Composites in Owosso."