Rubatex is back in business.
The revamped closed-cell rubber foam operation-now known as Rubatex International L.L.C.-reopened its doors Oct. 1 under new ownership. The business' previous owner, RBX Corp., closed the Rubatex facility in Bedford in April.
RBX has sold all its manufacturing businesses-including four foam plants and its custom-mixing facility-after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February. German rubber maker Sedo Chemicals Neoprene GmbH now owns Rubatex, which opened with about 20 employees at the 200,000-sq.-ft. factory. The deal was completed Sept. 27 for about $1.1 million.
A team of Sedo and Rubatex personnel-including Rubatex CEO Claus Goyer, who came over from Sedo, and Plant Manager Larry Brookshier, who held the same position when RBX was the parent-are running the Bedford plant.
``We want people to know we're open and operational,'' Brookshier said. ``We're anxious to serve our customers with our high-quality Rubatex products.''
The Rubatex business traditionally manufactured a diverse array of elastomeric and polymeric foams for a variety of markets, including athletic, industrial, automotive, aerospace, die-packing and construction.
The company started its first day with one mixing line running, but as raw materials arrive, the plant will ramp up into full production over the next week or so, Brookshier said. Over the next two quarters, employment at the facility will increase to about 35 people, he said.
Over the years, Rubatex earned a reputation for high-quality, closed-cell rubber foam products, and re-establishing that core business is the firm's main goal, Goyer said. Sedo, which primarily manufactures neoprene in Europe, is involved with Rubatex for more than a financial play, he said.
``There's knowledge and expertise coming from both sides of the ocean,'' Goyer said. ``We're not financial investors; we're here for long-term commitment.''
The timing to reopen and get back into production is ideal for Rubatex, Brookshier said. Many customers used good judgment and purchased larger volumes of foam when the facility closed in April. But now the pipeline is nearly empty, and the company will be able to meet those needs.
Rubatex already has started exercising its three- to five-year capital investment plan, he said. The company will add new machinery and upgrade other pieces-including presses, mixers and curing equipment-as it grows into the facility.
RBX, which is now down to a skeleton crew and no manufacturing operations, filed for bankruptcy twice in the past four years. Ironically, its last few employees are now renting space at the Bedford facility the company once owned.
Thus far, the response to Rubatex coming back has been positive, Brookshier said. ``We've gotten a lot of calls, mostly people saying `welcome back' or wondering when we'll be up and running. It's exciting and encouraging.''