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Universal Polymer buys business, to expand plant

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Joe Colebank Jr., president and CEO of Universal Polymer.
Joe Colebank Jr., president and CEO of Universal Polymer.

MIDDLEFIELD, Ohio—Universal Polymer & Rubber Ltd. is growing again and adding to its capabilities, this time via another acquisition and a plant expansion.

A custom manufacturer of molded rubber parts, extruded rubber components and extruded plastic products, Universal Polymer has acquired Universal Rubber and Plastics Corp. from Bobbie Tilton and Dave Pape, who have owned URP since 1990.

Universal intends to broaden the company's product line and add a die-cut operation to its growing business, according to Joe Colebank Jr., president and CEO of the Middlefield-headquartered firm.

It completed the acquisition of URP July 14.

Universal Polymer also completed an expansion recently at its Middlefield plant, adding 36,000 square feet to increase the size of the facility to about 125,000 square feet, he said. In addition, it added a salt bath line, consisting of an extruder with a 15-inch wide salt bath for large or wide profile extrusions.

The expansion gives the company additional warehouse space that can store more than 2,500 pallets, a new 3,000-sq.-ft. climate controlled storage room for raw material with sensitive shelf life, and a 2,000-sq.-ft. die shop to house the firm's wire EDM machine used in-house to produce extrusion dies. Financial details were not disclosed. About 11 employees have been added to the firm's work force because of the expansion.

With the expansion and the acquisition of URP, “we have almost 150,000 square feet under roof to produce compression, transfer and injected molded products along with salt bath extrusions, microwave extrusions, plastic extrusions and die-cut products,” Colebank said.

Third acquisition

Universal Polymer's newest acquisition, its third in the last six years, is a custom rubber products extruder that produces products for the industrial, energy, commercial and other markets.

URP makes gaskets, bumpers, seals, bushings and shock mounts from natural rubber, silicone, nitrile, polyurethane, butyl, neoprene and other elastomers. It primarily serves the automotive, construction and general industrial sectors.

Formed in 1980 and based in Tallmadge, Ohio, URP focuses on microwave-cured rubber extrusion and secondary operations, Colebank said, and has a large die-cut business that will broaden Universal Polymer's product line and significantly increase the firm's capacity.

Adding those capabilities to Universal Polymer's strengths in extrusion, molding, secondary operations and overseas sourcing will benefit customers from both companies, he said, pointing out that merging the firms also will lead to improved service.

Other than Tilton and Pape, who have left the business, URP's estimated work force of 22 will retain their jobs, giving the company a staff of about 100, according to Colebank.

He said the company's 38,000-sq.-ft. production plant in Tallmadge will continue operating and provide additional resources to all customers of the two operations.

Universal Polymer—launched in 1970 under the name Polymer Raymond—and URP excel at their own specific but complementary areas of expertise, and both facilities are staffed by skilled veterans who will share information and best practices with one another, according to Universal Polymer, which is an operating company of private investment firm Cypress Companies in Akron.

Cypress bought the company in 2002, eight years after Polymer Raymond was merged with another company, and its name was changed to Universal Polymer.

Prime benefits

There are other benefits resulting from the merger of the businesses, Universal Polymer said.

• Both locations complement each other, and each historically has specialized in fast turnaround, high-mix, low-volume production, and they create a level of security for each other that did not exist before.

• The two facilities include a variety of rubber extrusion, die-cutting and conversion equipment along with secondary machinery, creating the ability to direct production to the most efficient location, providing agility and flexibility in responding to shifts, and meeting the growth in customer demand.

The acquisition of URP fits into the Universal Polymer's growth plan, Colebank said. The company is intent on growing organically and via acquisitions, he said.

In July 2012, the company bought Dybrook Products Inc., a custom molder and extruder of rubber or plastic bumpers, gaskets, seals and other products using EPDM, neoprene, silicone, natural rubber and SBR.

Dybrook has been merged into Universal Polymer's facility in Middlefield, Colebank said.

The purchase and the decision to move Dybrook to Middlefield led to the firm's decision to expand the plant.

Universal Polymer also moved production of its Silverline and Silverline Elete Tarp Strap lines from China back to Middlefield, Colebank said.

He said the company will continue to travel the acquisition trail as a way to expand its operation but did not say if another purchase was imminent.