Janesville61.1°

Buyers: Local Freedom Plastics operations will continue

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JAMES P. LEUTE
March 28, 2009
— The two companies that bought the assets of Freedom Plastics in Janesville plan to operate the local facility, but it’s not clear how many jobs will be retained.

North American Pipe Corp. closed Thursday on its $6.3 million acquisition of Freedom’s pipe manufacturing division and plans a limited production startup in the next few months.


In recent months, Freedom was hamstrung by construction industry downturns and increases in materials costs. It entered a court-supervised receivership sale in early February in an effort to stay in business in Janesville.


Last week, a Rock County judge approved the sale of Freedom’s assets for a combined $11.5 million.


The buyers are:


-- Westlake Chemical of Houston, the parent company of North American Pipe. The company bought Freedom’s pipe manufacturing division in Janesville, which employed 55 people.


-- Harrington Corp. of Lynchburg, Va., which will pay $1 million for Freedom’s fabrication division in Janesville. The division had 25 workers


-- Silver-Line Plastics of Asheville, N.C., which will pay $3.8 million for Freedom’s Florida division.


-- NACO Industries of Logan, Utah, which will pay $400,000 for Freedom’s equipment in Idaho.


Freedom makes PVC pipes and fittings and supplies the wastewater, plumbing, irrigation and industrial markets.


Dave Hansen, a Westlake senior vice president, said Friday that North American plans to start limited production in Janesville over the next several months and will assemble a workforce accordingly.


“Our management team is assessing the operation in Janesville and trying to get a full understanding of how it fits into our overall operating platform,” Hansen said. “We don’t have a precise operating schedule yet, so we can’t say we’re going to hire ‘X’ number of employees by ‘X’ date.”


Freedom’s employees in Janesville have been laid off. Anyone interested in working for either North American or Harrington must apply to the companies.


North American has nine PVC pipe plants in the United States. It supplies municipal water and sewer, residential plumbing, irrigation, agricultural and do-it-yourself markets.


At full capacity, the Janesville plant can produce up to 190 million pounds of PVC pipe per year. That capacity makes the Janesville plant one of North American’s largest, Hansen said


“We are pleased to have concluded this transaction and to add the assets of the Janesville plant to the operating platform of North American Pipe,” Mike Powell, the company’s vice president and general manager said in a news release. “This facility has the capability and history of producing high quality PVC pipe consistent with North American Pipe’s standards and objective of providing quality products and services to our customers.”


Harrington Corp. bought the fabrication division and plans to operate the Janesville operation and continue serving Freedom customers. Administration, accounting, human resources, customer service and sales functions, however, will be at the company’s Virginia headquarters.


A Harrington official was unavailable for comment Friday on specifics for the local operation.


Hansen said North American and Harrington will operate the facilities on Arch Street as separate companies.



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