More to come, company says

Md. Thermoform says addition will boost sales by third

`Doing exceptionally well'


June 06, 2000|By Kristine Henry | Kristine Henry,SUN STAFF

Maryland Thermoform Corp., a fast-growing plastics company, said yesterday that it made an acquisition that will increase its revenue by nearly a third.

The Southwest Baltimore manufacturer bought the custom-thermoforming business of Rapid Industrial Plastics in Jersey City, N.J. The deal is expected to add about $2 million in annual sales to the local 90-person company and create 10 to 15 jobs.

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Most people have probably seen a Maryland Thermoform product without knowing it. The company makes ubiquitous objects such as the clear plastic covers that let shoppers see, for example, a Cover Girl powder compact while it's still in the package. Its plastics also form the foundation of some liquor-and-glass gift packs and many other items.

The acquisition "makes us more than just a Maryland-based and Maryland service company," said Scott Macdonald, chief executive and co-owner of Maryland Thermoform. "It makes us more regional; now we go from New England to Florida to the Midwest."

The company was founded in 1972 as a supplier to defense companies. It made durable goods such as battery cases for companies including AAI Corp. and Martin Marietta Corp.

Macdonald and two partners bought the company in 1994 and changed the focus to packaging, although the business still does some defense work, such as a recent contract to make parts for AAI's spy drones.

Since its shift in focus, Maryland Thermoform has grown exponentially. It went from sales of $500,000 in 1995, Macdonald said, to about $7 million last year.

Part of that growth came as the company moved from Joppa Road in Towson to the Crossroads Industrial Park near Seton Keough High School two years ago. Maryland Thermoform had been in a complex owned by Merry-Go-Round, which declared bankruptcy, and lost the building. Macdonald said the move to the city helped him attract workers and more business.

Maryland Thermoform also won new customers when PTP Industries Inc. went out of business in 1997. PTP made plastic casings for America Online Inc., its largest client, that held software discs mailed out to attract subscribers. PTP folded after a billing dispute with AOL.

"That left a lot of skilled people available and we were lucky enough to grab almost all of them," Macdonald said. He hired about 20 skilled workers, but more than 500 unskilled laborers lost their jobs.

Maryland Thermoform was able to acquire Rapid Industrial Plastics' unit even though it wasn't the highest bidder because of its "quality, its design capabilities and its tool-building capabilities," said Larry Rauch, sales manager for Rapid's custom forming business. "They seemed like the best choice for our customers."

Rapid's main business is selling plastic resin. It also makes horticultural plastic trays that hold plant seedlings, and had a small custom-thermoforming business. Its tray business is moving to Mexico, and Rauch said it didn't make sense to move the custom business also, because clients "want to be able to reach out and touch someone."

He and another salesperson will sell Maryland Thermoform's products in the New York area. Several of Rapid's employees were offered jobs in Baltimore but declined, Macdonald said. Instead, he will hire locally.

While the Rapid deal, which was concluded late last month, is the company's first acquisition, it won't be the last. Macdonald said he's looking at other businesses, although he declined to elaborate.

"We're doing exceptionally well," he said. "We're more profitable than ever before and we're still growing."

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