NEWMARKET, Ontario—The road leading to AirBoss of America Corp. purchasing custom rubber compounder Ace Elastomer Inc. last August hardly could be called a whirlwind marriage.
The way Chris Bitsakakis, president and chief operating officer at Newmarket-based AirBoss, tells it, the first contact was a few years back. AirBoss had developed a strategy to expand into color and specialty compounding, invested in a dedicated color mixing line at its main factory in Kitchener, Ontario, and also put in a smaller-scale specialty mixing line.
But the second-largest custom mixer in North America also was looking for potential acquisition candidates that had a commanding lead in certain market niches, particularly with color and specialty mixing.
While researching the industry and talking with contacts, Bitsakakis came across Ace Elastomer, based in Rock Hill, S.C., with a second mixing site in Chicago. Ace provides a wide range of design, formulation development and custom compounding across the natural and synthetic polymer range, serving such industries as belting, rubber rollers and printing, and molding and extrusion applications.
Bitsakakis, though, was drawn to some of the philanthropy work that Russell Foster, Ace owner and president, and his wife were involved in.
"I thought to myself, here's a nice company with a good niche that has a management team that cares about their people and their community as well," Bitsakakis said.
So he called Foster out of the blue and introduced himself.
Foster's response: He made it clear from the beginning that he gets these kinds of calls all the time, and that he was not really interested in selling Ace. Bitsakakis replied that was fine, but he was still interested in getting to know Foster and his team so possibly they could work together in the future, whether it led to an acquisition or not.
And that's what they did, each helping the other by providing material for each other when needed and, more importantly, developing a lasting relationship.