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Group revives Elkhart Plastics

A former company name and familiar company leader are back in business. A management group led by Jack Welter has purchased five plastic molding plants, including the former Elkhart Plastics in Elkhart County, from a private equity firm.

Posted on March 24, 2011 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on March 24, 2011 at 3:03 a.m.

ELKHART -- A former company name and familiar company leader are back in business.

A management group led by Jack Welter has purchased five plastic molding plants, including the former Elkhart Plastics in Elkhart County, from a private equity firm. Terms of the February sale were not disclosed.

"It's the business that I know and think there's a good future for it," Welter said.

Along with plants in Middlebury, Elkhart and South Bend, Welter and his associates bought a plant in Colorado and another in Washington. The Indiana operations will work under the name Elkhart Plastics, while the Colorado plant will be called Littleton Plastics and the Washington facility will operate as Portland Plastics, according to Plastics News.

Based in South Bend, the new company -- collectively called Indiana Rotomolding Inc. -- will continue serving the recreational vehicle and boat manufacturers. It is developing relationships with other industries, namely agriculture and commercial truck.

About 500 workers are employed among the five plants, with the bulk of the payroll -- roughly 300 -- working in Elkhart County and another 60 in South Bend, Welter said.

Annual revenues are about $60 million. He is optimistic for "above-average growth" in revenues going forward.

Welter joined Elkhart Plastics in 1990 and led the company as president and chief executive officer from 1994 to 2006. During his tenure, the plastics maker grew from a single operation in Middlebury to four plants. Welter credited the expansion to local industries' conversion to plastics from using metal, fiberglass and wood.

Elkhart Plastics makes storage compartments and water tanks for RV manufacturers, as well as furniture and tanks for boat companies, Welter said.

It recently signed with an agricultural equipment manufacturer to supply tanks for tractors, combines and harvesters, Welter said. He declined to name the manufacturer.

In 2006, global plastics manufacturer Promens, based in Iceland, bought Elkhart Plastics as well as Bonar Plastics. Welter remained as vice president of North American operations.

A Connecticut-based private equity group, Olympus Partners, purchased six of Promens' U.S. facilities in October 2010. Again, Welter continued with the new owners.

Somewhere along the line, the name Elkhart Plastics was scrapped.

The moniker has returned and Welter again is president and CEO. He said that buying the five plants underscores his and his management group's confidence in the company's future.

"If not," Welter said, "we wouldn't have done it."




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