CHICAGO—From the outside, it's hard to imagine that the Flexan Corp. facility in an unassuming neighborhood in Chicago serves as the headquarters for a thriving global enterprise.
But the 65,000-sq.-ft. complex not only houses production for the Flexan commercial and industrial molding business, but it also serves as home base for a business that includes the FMI Inc. medical components subsidiary in nearby Elk Grove Village, Ill., and a growing presence in China.
"This location is our headquarters," said Scott Severson, Flexan CEO and one of three partners who own Flexan and FMI. "Some of our most important resources are having great talent. We need sophisticated finance and accounting talent, sophisticated engineering and chemistry talent, and we need people who are capable of supporting a global sales network. Chicago's a great city for those types of talented people."
Flexan was founded in 1946 by the Lilleberg brothers as a family-owned business. It added the FMI unit in 1989 to make silicone medical components geared toward long-term implantable devices. And in 2004 it opened up shop in China, first on the Flexan side of the business. It is now making FMI products as well.
Severson—son-in-law of one of the founders—joined in 1977 and has been on board ever since. In 2010, though, some of the second-generation family members wanted to retire. Severson wasn't ready to call it quits, so he recruited longtime company veterans Bruce Cohen and Frank Sullivan to join him as partners in owning Flexan/FMI.
"We're still a family-owned business—it's just different families," Severson said.
Cohen, who serves as Flexan president, joined the firm in 1991 as a salesman. He became sales manager in 1998, a vice president in 2000 and in 2004 went to Suzhou, China, to start that operation. He also became a small minority owner in Flexan at that time.
Sullivan came on board in 1994 after working for another silicone product maker in the medical market. He became FMI vice president in 2004 and president of the unit in 2007.
"Frank and Bruce and I stepped up and bought out the other family members who were looking to retire," Severson said. "It sort of gave us a renewed vigor, a more aggressive forward-looking strategy, and it's worked out well. When the opportunity came to either invest more or retire myself, it was pretty easy to say these were the key managers. ... It was a natural to get our best people involved as a privately owned company."