Sussex IM plans to grow business
May be hiring new employees in the future
Village of Sussex — The three Lake Country business executives who risked millions of dollars by taking over a manufacturing business in the middle of a deep national recession say that, rather than hunkering down and riding out the economic storm, they plan to grow Sussex IM despite the economic conditions.
"We are going to create jobs the old-fashioned way, by growing the business," said Keith Everson.
"We are also going to bring back some of the jobs that went overseas," he added, saying one of his targets was in China.
"They have gotten a lot of bad PR lately with the lead paint in children's toys and the toxic materials in their gypsum and their prices increasing fast. We think we can be more cost-effective and competitive," Everson added.
Everson of Ashippun, Dave Guagliardo of Wales and Phil Salzman of Oconomowoc, all management executives with Rexam, a $6 billion corporation based in the United Kingdom, purchased for an undisclosed price the company's plastic injection molding plant in Sussex.
The three were approached by Rexam executives about the possibility of purchasing the plant, which Rexam had intended to significantly downsize because about 60 percent of products the plant produced were not related to Rexam's core business.
After taking over the company on Jan. 1, one of the first steps was to protect the "Sussex" brand in the plastic injection molding industry by renaming the company Sussex IM.
"When we were Sussex Plastics (from 1977 to 1999, when the company was privately owned), when we would go to visit customers, they would always say 'Here comes Sussex,' " Everson explained.
"When we were Rexam and we would go to visit customers, they still said 'Here comes Sussex,' " he added.
"We were going to call it Sussex Injection Molding, but we decided to shorten it to Sussex IM," Everson explained.
"When we announced the name to the employees, they all cheered," he added.
The new owners spent the first week after their acquisition meeting with each of the 210 employees, some of whom go back to the company's founding by another Lake Country business owner, Lorand Spyres-Durand and Walter Nathan of Chicago.
The second week they met with customers, assuring them they would continue to provide cost-effective, quality plastic products.
Everson said the company is already booking new business, has hired an additional engineer and anticipates hiring additional workers, possibly as early as March.
Sussex IM devotes about 60 percent of its capacity to providing a wide range of commercial, industrial and consumer product companies with plastics.
The remaining 40 percent is devoted to cosmetic industry customers. Sussex IM is the one of the largest manufactures of cosmetic compact cases in the United States, according to Everson.
Everson said some of the company's customers "are somewhat recession proof," and Sussex IM is in a good position to meet growing demands from those customers because of the plant's capacity.
There is 110,000 square feet of space and 65 plastic injection molding presses, along with skilled and experienced workers at the plant, which is a few hundred feet east of Highway 164 and VV (Silver Spring Road).
"We can increase our capacity by about 20 to 30 percent with limited capital costs," he added.
In addition, Rexam will continue to be one of Sussex IM's largest customers, which means about 40 percent of the plant will still be devoted to plastics for cosmetic industry and 60 percent to other markets.
"We play to grow that other 60 percent while growing with Rexam's 40 percent," Everson explained.
Everson said Rexam approached the three managers about buying the plant because it was a "win, win, win for everyone."
By selling the plant to the managers, Rexam assured itself of a cost-effective, quality producer of products the company needed without risking selling the facility to a competitor.
The three managers got to take over a modern facility with a skilled work force and a substantial existing book of business.
And the 210 employees, many of them Lake Country residents, got to keep their jobs.