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Published: Saturday, 7/26/2008

Archbold maker of scaffolding has new owner

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

ARCHBOLD - One of Archbold's best-known companies was purchased yesterday by the U.S. subsidiary of a European firm, and company officials here said the deal is likely to mean more jobs in Fulton County.

Bil-Jax Inc., the privately held 61-year-old maker of scaffolding and lift equipment, announced that it has been purchased by the U.S. subsidiary of the French company Haulotte Group SA. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

"We have approximately 300 workers here in Archbold, and we're expecting nothing but additional growth opportunities," said Brent Hagedorn, Bil-Jax's director of marketing and national accounts. "Our intent will be to hire."

Haulotte is an industry leader in Europe in powered lifting equipment for both people and materials, but has a limited customer base in the United States. Bil-Jax is an industry leader in North America in frame scaffolding, and more recently, aerial work platforms.

The company also manufactures prefab performance stages, such as those that are used in graduation ceremonies and other small events.

The two companies dominate their local markets, but don't necessarily compete with each other a great deal on the world market, Mr. Hagedorn explained.

As such, the sale is expected to mean Haulotte products will be made in Archbold and Bil-Jax products in France, for sale in their respective new continents.

"They are really complementary lines of access," Mr. Hagedorn said. "This allows us to become a much larger player in our industry."

Bil-Jax has been owned since 2003 by a group of five company executives who purchased it from a private equity group. Previously, it had been owned by a financially troubled German firm, Plettac AG, which sold the company earlier that year to concentrate on its own core businesses.

Prior to that, it had been privately owned.

Local house plasterers Bill and Jack Ashenfelter started the company in Archbold in 1947. The two had developed improved scaffolding for plastering walls.

The company grew quickly in the postwar building boom of the 1950s and 1960s.

Mr. Hagedorn said the company has room to expand its current operations within its 350,000-square-foot plant here "with some reorganization," and could build additional space if needed on 18 adjacent vacant acres that the company owns. More details on those plans are expected within 60 days, he said.

"With the soft economy, we'd certainly take any additional jobs we can get," said Archbold Mayor Jim Wyse, who said he had offered his services to help gain any state assistance that may be required.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:

lvellequette@theblade.com

or 419-724-6091.



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