A Wisconsin PET packaging thermoformer once slated to close is getting new life after being sold, and the new owner is a familiar name in plastics.
But fellow thermoformer Lacerta Group LLC was able to buy the assets of Portage Plastics to save the facility from closing and, in the process, keep most of the jobs.
Lacerta, owned by private equity firm SK Capital Partners, operates four thermoforming facilities in its headquarters of Mansfield, Mass., and one in Chatsworth, Calif.
After learning about Portage Plastics' decision to close during a conversation at Pack Expo in Chicago in late October, officials from Lacerta were at the facility the next day to take a look at operations, Lacerta CEO Peter Lennox said.
"We were adequately impressed with the facility, the team, the operations, the organization and the workforce. That really prompted us to take a serious look at doing something. It was truly opportunistic. This was not a planned event. This came out of the blue for us," he said.
Lacerta ultimately paid less than $5 million for the facility in Portage and equipment in a deal that closed Dec. 21, the company said.
Lacerta actually had been looking for a Midwest location for months, to help fill in the geographic gap between the company's plants in Massachusetts and California, when it learned about Portage Plastics.
"It helps us get closer to our Midwest customer base. It's an opportunity to serve our current customers with a location in the Midwest. I think that's critical. It allows us to further expand our customer base in the Midwest, having this extended footprint," Lennox said. "Part of our plan was to expand in the Midwest and this opportunity came along."
Portage Plastics operates 11 thermoforming lines and now has 58 employees following the change in ownership. That's down from an estimated 64-68 who were previously working at Portage, Lacerta said.
"This essentially was an asset sale, and we were able to save a lot of jobs, and we actually are really excited about what we paid for it relative to how much business we think we can run though it and how profitable we can get that site," said Josh Lieberman, a principal at SK Capital Partners.
Establishing a Midwest location will allow Lacerta to better serve customers in that region and cut down on transportation costs to clients in the middle of the country.
"Part of the reason this Portage transaction is interesting for Lacerta is we think we can fill the plant with really good business on the basis on the existing customer base we have and the growing demand we are seeing in and around this prepared food, fresh food and produce categories," Lieberman said.
SK Capital has invested more than $20 million in new equipment at Lacerta during its first two years of ownership, a move that's helped doubled the top line, Lieberman said.