COMMERCIAL METAL FORMING Company puts plant at its core

YOUNGSTOWN -- A metal stamping plant that always operated in the shadows of its owners' other businesses now will have its chance in the spotlight.
The Andrews Avenue plant, which employs about 150, is the foundation of a new company that is expecting growth and promising reinvestment.
Metal Technologies Solutions, a new Chicago-based company, bought three plants last week that formed the metal stamping division of the former Commercial Intertech Corp.
Cleveland-based Parker Hannifin Corp. acquired Commercial Intertech last year, but sold the stamping operations in Youngstown, Texas and California.
That will turn out for the best for the Youngstown plant and its employees, said Bill Kowal, Metal Technologies president. It is the largest of the three plants.
Commercial Intertech was more interested in their hydraulic plants in Youngstown and other operations around the world, he said. When Parker took over, it immediately put the division up for sale, saying it was mostly interested in Commercial's hydraulic plants.
Focus: Kowal said he thinks those companies were taking some of the profits generated by the plant and investing it in operations elsewhere. Both companies maintained the business well but didn't focus on it so that it could grow, he said.
Investment in the Youngstown plant should increase now that the division is the core of a new business and not a small part of a global giant, Kowal said.
The division is a world leader in tank heads, which cover a variety of industrial tanks.
Kowal said Commercial Intertech expanded the product line by adding a few new items, such as brake drums and parts for dental chairs.
But opportunities are much greater, he said. The Youngstown plant has the equipment and work force needed make a much greater variety of products, and the task now is to identify markets for those products, he said.
The plant specializes in precise, circular stampings known as "deep draw." This process allows a thin piece of metal to be stamped into a product that becomes several inches thick.
Trinity Industries of Dallas is the only other major player in the field, he said. Other competitors are smaller and offer niche products here and there, he said.
Goal: The former Commercial Intertech stamping operations, which are now called Commercial Metal Forming, has about $50 million in annual sales.
Kowal said he intends to acquire other companies in the metals business to increase sales under his parent company to $500 million. He is looking for precision manufacturers that have top-quality customers.
Track record: Kowal has been through such growth before. He had been chief executive officer for Senior Flexonics, a Chicago-based metal manufacturer that increased sales from $25 million to $700 million in 15 years.
He said he left that company a year ago because he wanted to start over and build a new company.
His experience in leading a growing manufacturing company were key to Blue Point Capital Partners deciding to partner with him in the Commercial Metal Forming acquisition, said Sean Ward, principal in the Cleveland-based investment capital company.
His focus on manufacturing businesses also helped, Ward said. Blue Point invests only in manufacturing companies and has no interest in high-tech companies.
"Most of our companies have Web sites now, but that's about as far as we've gotten," he said.
Blue Point has ownership interests in 22 other manufacturing companies, including Salem-based Blackhawk Automotive Plastics.

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