A German company has acquired a struggling La Porte manufacturer, a move that will mean almost $4 million in new investment and a potential doubling of the existing workforce at the plant.
The Jager Group provides custom rubber and plastic parts to the automotive and other industries primarily in Germany.
According to company officials, the acquisition of Unitek Sealing Solutions at 315 Brighton St. allows the Jager Group to begin making wiper blades, gaskets and other parts for the automotive industry in the U.S.
The existing workforce of 37 full-time employees will grow to more than 70 by 2012, said Mark Dilley, president and CEO of the new local company, Jager-Unitek Sealing Solutions. He said the average wage of the new employees will be $12 to $14 per hour with benefits.Wages for skilled operators of the new machinery will be ‘'much higher,'' Dilley said.
Unitek, with $4.8 million in annual revenue, supplied similar rubber and plastic parts mostly to automakers in the U.S. owned by Japanese firms.
The La Porte plant is expected to produce about $10 million worth of product once $3.7 million in new high tech equipment from Germany arrives some time between October and January, said Andreas Jager of The Jaeger Group.
‘'We'll set up a real showroom for rubber and plastics in La Porte,'' Jager said.
Unitek's promimity to automakers -- the plant is within 500 miles of 80 percent of U.S. automakers -- was a major factor in Jager's acquisition of the company. The new location will enable Jager to keep down shipping costs in the U.S. auto industry market.
"It's a perfect fit for us,'' said Hans-Ulrich von Tippelskirch, Jager's chairman.
Some of the existing workforce will go to Germany to learn how to operate the same machinery that will be delivered to the La Porte site.
Unitek bought American Rubber Products in 2006.
Dilley said the impact of the economic downturn on the auto industry resulted in a 50-percent loss of its business in 2008.
Much of that loss came back in 2009 but prior to the acquisition there was still uncertainly over the company's future, Dilley said.
Dilley said there was extra business to go after, but Unitek lacked the significant capital needed to meet those demands.
‘'We're thrilled this technology is coming,'' Dilley said.