Argotec owners sell to Chicago firm
GREENFIELD — Argotec Inc., the plastic-film manufacturer that has seen rapid growth over the past six years at the Interstate 91 Industrial Park, has been purchased by a Chicago-based private-equity firm, Wing Point Partners, company officials announced Wednesday.
The company, founded in 1988 by Richard Barnes and Steven Wolkenbreit, employs about 150 workers at its three industrial park buildings, according to J. Nicholas Filler, who along with Bruce Wilby retain minority ownership and will remain as executive vice president, overseeing day-to-day operations.
The sale of the business was described by Wilby, as “a long-planned exit strategy. … Simply put, they wanted to retire.”
A written press statement quotes Barnes, of South Deerfield, and Wolkenbreit, of Amherst, as saying, “This has always been our succession plan. We are elated to have found a partner like Wind Point who will continue to fund the ongoing growth of the company as we have.” Argotec has more than doubled in size over the last five years and is anticipated to redouble in the next three to five years with the capital available through Wind Point Partners.
Guy Broadbent, who will join the company as president and chief executive officer, overseeing policy and strategic planning, has been CEO at Xcellerex and president of the Laboratory Products Group at ThermoFisher Scientific, both biomanufacturing companies.
Filler, a Conway lawyer who has been company president and chief operating officer, said that a major factor in Argotec’s tripling in growth over the past six years is the increased market for plastic protection for automobiles and electronic device screens.
“Obviously, every time Apple comes out with a new iPhone or iPad, especially of a different size, it’s of great value for us,” said Filler, explaining that Argotec’s plastic films are used in the protective coatings that are applied to the screens of smart phones and other electronic devices after they are purchased. The coatings are sold, often at airport kiosks, under the name of an Argotec customer for the customer to apply, or they can be applied by retailers like Best Buy.
The high-performance urethane film is also applied by car dealers to new vehicles as a way to protect paint, which now has to be made with a softer coating because of environmental regulations, Filler said.
“Maybe only 7 to 10 percent of cars in the US have this put on,” he said. “But we’ve been seeing more and more dealers realizing this is an opportunity to make a little money on what we used to call an accessory, especially as dealers get more and more competitive because of sales on the Internet.”
Both of Argotec’s big growth sectors should continue to see growth, guessed Filler, adding that the company, which had just 60 employees about six years ago, could add another 50 workers in Greenfield over the next two or three years if it stays on track.
“Those are two big growth areas for us, they’ve been growing for three or four years and we don’t see any reason why they should stop growing, because more and more people are using smart phones or devices, and we think more car dealers will promote paint protection.”
Argotec, which also manufactures plastic sheets commonly used in automobile seating, weather-resistant coatings and bulletproof glass, added 35,000 square feet about four years ago to its new home in the former GBI Marketing warehouse on Silvio O. Conte Drive. In addition to that 95,000-square-foot manufacturing, warehouse and office facility, it has two other factory-warehouses in the industrial park, each about 30,000 square feet.
Wind Point Partners, created in 1983, is a private equity investment firm that manages holdings worth about $2.5 billion. According to Bloomberg Business News................................................................... , it tries to invest between $15 million and $120 million in companies with revenues between $50 million and $300 million.
Among Wind Point’s wide-reaching portfolio of companies is Nonni’s, a biscotti bakery; the motorcycle and snowmobile dealership network America’s PowerSports; and Active Interest Media, a publisher of magazines that include Horse & Rider, Old House Journal and Vegetarian Times.
Filler said, “They’ve watched our growth pattern in the last five or six years, and they’d be thrilled if we could repeat it. Tripling our business in six years is not easy, and it gets harder and harder the bigger we get. But if we just doubled — I say just doubled! — our business in five or six years, everyone would be very happy. And most of that, I’d imagine, would be right here. This product is hard to make, and it’s the Greenfield workforce that’s our real asset.”
Filler said Wind Point has a good record of investing in companies, adding, “It’s good for us, and good for our employees. We’ve got continuity, and we’ve got a new investor who’s willing to promote our efforts. They don’t buy companies unless they think the company has substantial capacity for continued growth.”
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