2017-08-06 / Insight

Success of Imlay City Molded Products ‘definitely a team effort’

BY ANDREW DIETDERICH
810-452-2609 • adietderich@mihomepaper.com


Corey Drayer, sales engineer and minority shareholder in Imlay City Molded Products, shows a plastic vent hood that will be used in an RV. The part had just been made by a 1,000-ton injection molding machine. 
Photo by Andrew Dietderich Corey Drayer, sales engineer and minority shareholder in Imlay City Molded Products, shows a plastic vent hood that will be used in an RV. The part had just been made by a 1,000-ton injection molding machine. Photo by Andrew Dietderich IMLAY CITY — Identifiable to most by the “ICMP” sign located across the street from the former location of Mulefoot Gastropub, one of Lapeer County’s most successful ventures hums along 24 hours a day, five days a week.

It’s Imlay City Molded Products Corp., 593 S. Cedar St., where about 30 employees almost continually churn out injection molded plastic parts for customers like Black & Decker/Emhart, Honda, Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler as well as Dometic (one of the largest suppliers for RV parts in the world).

Imlay City Molded Products had revenue of between $4 million and $5 million in 2016 and Coleen Felstow, owner, president, and general manager, expects growth of 50 percent this year. The company is profitable, she said.


Richard Elwart, a press operator at Imlay City Molded Products, works on making spacers that will be used in bumpers on some Honda vehicles. 
Photos by Andrew Dietderich Richard Elwart, a press operator at Imlay City Molded Products, works on making spacers that will be used in bumpers on some Honda vehicles. Photos by Andrew Dietderich Corey Drayer, sales engineer and minority shareholder in the company, said “it’s been exciting seeing the company grow and employing more people.”

The company’s diverse client base helps, too.

Imlay City Molded Products serves numerous industries; defense/ aerospace, electronics and industrial, agriculture, automotive, heavy equipment, and heating and cooling.

“It’s something new every day,” Drayer said. “You never know what you’re going to get into.”

Felstow began working with the former Imlay City Plastics (formerly PSI) as chief financial officer in 1998. (Drayer started in 1995.)


The sign for Imlay City Molded Products, 593 S. Center St. (M-53), located near the former location of Mulefoot Gastropub. The sign for Imlay City Molded Products, 593 S. Center St. (M-53), located near the former location of Mulefoot Gastropub. Chuck Tesnow, owner of Imlay City Plastics at the time, was pleased with Felstow’s work and gave her equity in the company.

Felstow said she considered it a valuable offering because as CFO, she “knew the numbers of the company.”

“I was very thankful,” she said.

At the time, the majority of work for Imlay City Plastics was coming from The 3M Co., which was heavily scrutinizing costs along its supply chain, Felstow said.

As a result, a plan was formed to segregate business from other customers at Imlay City Plastics. Felstow, along with nine other shareholders, spun off Imlay City Molded Products in 2000.

“It was really to handle overflow work and at the time everything was great with 3M,” she said. “Unfortunately, what happened was 3M…ended up pulling their work and moving it to Mexico.”


Coleen Felstow (left), owner, president, and general manager, Imlay City Molded Products, watches as Corey Drayer puts the finishing touches on a plastic part using a CNC machine. Coleen Felstow (left), owner, president, and general manager, Imlay City Molded Products, watches as Corey Drayer puts the finishing touches on a plastic part using a CNC machine. By 2004, Imlay City Plastics ceased operations.

“But we had this company,” she said of Imlay City Molded Products. “It was plugging along, maintaining itself, just at a smaller scale.”

Along with the “overflow work”, Imlay City Molded Products also naturally inherited the know-how and experience of workers and management who had been with the original company.

That allowed the new company to continue serving early customers like Fan-tastic Vent Corp., formerly of Imlay City, which produced parts for the RV industry. That company eventually sold out to an Elkhart, Indianabased business that eventually ended up being acquired by Dometic.

It’s been a good industry to serve.

According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, the RV industry has grown for seven straight years and had an economic impact of about $50 billion in 2015 (the most recent figures available).

“For sure, we have seen that and it’s been exciting to see that build up,” she said.

But RV-related parts aren’t the only ones produced at Imlay City Molded Products.

Other products produced range from grommets and fasteners to large hood vent covers and stowage and ammunition boxes. On Wednesday of this past week, the company’s various presses were making vent covers for RVs, and spacers for bumpers in Honda vehicles, while other employees made fasteners and assembled other parts.

The company’s 11 injection molding machines offer press sizes ranging from 75 tons to 1,000 tons (the sizes refer to the amount of pressure used to mold plastic parts). In short, injection molding machines heat various types of plastic beads (depending on intended end use) and then form the resulting hot plastic into form using intense pressure.

Imlay City Molded Products operations in Imlay City are spread across two facilities totaling 30,000 square feet.

One year ago, Felstow became majority shareholder and owner of the company. (Drayer is the only other shareholder today).

In April, Imlay City Molded Products announced it successfully earned designation of a Women’s Business Enterprise from the Great Lakes Women’s Business Council (GLWBC), a regional certifying partner of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).

Felstow said the certification qualifies Imlay City Molded Products as a minority-owned supplier, a status that she hopes will open some doors for additional growth.

As it stands, she said, the company is expected to grow 50 percent in 2017 through more orders from existing customers and new clients.

“We definitely have capacity and would love to gain some other customers,” she said.

What does Felstow think has been the keys to success?

Generally, she said, the company has stayed true it roots of operating “very efficiently and running a tight ship so that we can be competitive with our pricing.”

But Felstow also points to other reasons.

She said the company has virtually no turnover. The management team is the same that it’s been since the beginning. Press operators tend to stick around a long time, too.

“That’s very unheard of in manufacturing,” she said. “I’m happy to say we don’t have that issue.”

Further, Felstow says she goes out of her way to create a culture where people want to work.

“(Employees) are not just somebody working,” she said. “You know who they are, you know their family, and you know what’s going on with them.”

“I always feel like you’re coming to work, you have to work every day, I would like the environment to be pleasant and not negative or miserable for people,” she said.

She said things like buying doughnuts on Monday, or occasionally holding barbecues for employees and their families in the summer, work toward creating that culture to which she aspires to create.

More significant ways of appreciation are shown, too. The company covers 100 percent of health care insurance costs for employees and has given out year-end bonuses.

“I know I always worked best for people who treated me a certain way,” she said. “You didn’t mind going to work and you actually wanted to do well for somebody who hopefully is treating you the way you want to be treated.”

Felstow also says she lets people do what they do best.

“I would never take credit for being the one that’s keeping this whole place going,” she said. “It is certainly a team of qualified management that really together just work well. They have their talents and I like to think I have mine. It’s just about empowering the members of that team and they run with it.

“Would I be able to go and work on a press and figure out what’s wrong with it? No. But my plant manager is an expert in those areas,” Felstow said, adding the company also has a quality manager, a controller, an internal ISO officer.

“It’s definitely a team effort,” she said.

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