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Granite State buys fellow NH injection molder WK Hillquist

Injection molder W.K. Hillquist Inc., ultimately, really didn't have to look very far to find the right new owner.

Granite State Plastics Inc. of Londonderry, N.H., sees its acquisition of nearby W.K. Hillquist as a combination of similar companies.

"Granite State has, for many years, been looking at what is next," owner Steven Lunder said. "And we've been looking at a couple of different approaches to how to look at our future. And acquisition was the most logical approach to that.

"And, quite frankly, W.K. Hillquist was the most logical one because it provides the least amount of disruption to customers and employees and suppliers alike," he said.

W.K. Hillquist, for its part, has been looking for the right partner to sell to for years, Lunder said. The company was advised by Molding Business Services of Florence, Mass., on the transaction.

"It's been four years since they started with the idea," he said. "They were looking for the right kind of buyer. We were fortunate that they felt we were a good fit for them. ... They wanted the employees to be well protected."

W.K. Hillquist was owned by Warren Hillquist and Mike Torpey, the long-time president of the firm. Torpey will become president of Granite State, but will not have an ownership interest in the combined company.

In addition to injection molding, WKH is a mold building, specializing in aluminum molds.

"I've had the pleasure of working with WKH employees for more than 40 years. While I can't promise Steve another 40 years, I look forward to addressing the challenges ahead with them in the combined company," Torpey said in a statement.

It was important for that company to make sure its employees had a future with a combined operation, Lunder said.

"They wanted a good fit for them," Lunder said. "They looked at a bunch of other suitors previously."

While the combined company will maintain two locations for now, the ultimate plan is for Granite State to relocate and consolidate its employees and machinery at W.K. Hillquist's location in Hudson, N.H.

The two sites are 18 miles apart, and the two companies had been what Lunder called "friendly competitors" for years.

The combined company will have more than 70 employees, including 45 from W.K. Hillquist. Ultimately, the firm will have about 30 to 32 injection molding machines. WKH currently has 24 and Granite State has 12, but some of those machines are older and will not make the trip to Hudson when the two operations combine under one roof. The company also will purchase some new equipment.

The acquisition includes both a 36,000-square-foot building housing W.K. Hillquist, and real estate. Granite State has about 18 months remaining on a lease, so the company has time to plan a move to Hudson. "Ultimately, we're going to need to probably rent space closer to that facility for warehouses or put an addition on," the new owner said.

The two firms have a bit of an overlap in the businesses they serve.

"They are primarily industrial and medical. We also have those two areas as well, but in addition to that. Automotive has been an important part of our history, as have sporting goods," Lunder said.

The sporting goods segment includes the firearms and footwear segments. Lunder's family formerly was in the footwear business and ran injection molding machines to make shoe components.

"We obviously knew a little about the business. But, quite frankly, custom injection molding is very different than being a proprietary shop that had obviously quality requirements, but not to the degree our customers are looking for," he said. Lunder has been in business at Granite State for 11 years.

"I think the combined company is really going to allow us to serve our customers a heck of a lot better," he said.

» Publication Date: 07/08/2017

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