Cudahy-based metal fabrication shop CR Industries Inc. has been acquired by a trio of investors, a group that includes two former leaders of Cudahy-based metal fabrication company Lucas-Milhaupt, Inc. CR Industries is now owned by Rich Ballenger, former president at Lucas-Milhaup, and Erik Thompson, who previously served as general manager at Lucas-Milhaupt. Steve Adkins of Brookfield-based commercial plumbing, HVAC and earthwork contractor CornerStone One LLC is also part of the ownership group as an equity investor. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. With the acquisition, the company's name is being changed to CR Industries, LLC. It will remain at its current location at 5757 S. Pennsylvania Ave. Lucas-Milhaupt is located nearby at 5656 S. Pennsylvania Ave. After deciding it was time to purchase their own company earlier this year, Ballenger started scouring his network for possibilities. As part of his search, he attended BizTimes Media’s M&A Forum in March. At the event, Ballenger met leaders from Old National Bank, who helped him close the transaction. “I think it was just time to go out on our own and work for ourselves instead of for a corporate owner,” Ballenger said. "Our goal right away was to find something we could operate, which differentiates us from a lot of buyers. I think it’s also one of the reasons we actually closed on this transaction.” On April 15, Ballenger became aware of the opportunity to buy CR Industries. An offer from the Weisflog family, which owned the business, was accepted on May 31. The deal officially closed Aug. 12. “When I set out to do this, I told my wife it could take 18 to 24 months, and we closed in five,” Ballenger said. “If there’s anything that’s unique about this deal, it’s the speed at which it happened and the speed at which we’re transforming it.” Ballenger and Thompson are working on transforming the company into a full-service metal design and fabricating shop with welding, powder coating and packaging capabilities. They’ve already committed six figures of capital toward new equipment. Thompson said both his and Ballenger’s experience make them the best fit to lead the company in the future, as they both have high-level professional management skills but still have a “blue collar” attitude. Ballenger has a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School. Thompson has a master’s degree in business administration from Carnegie Mellon University. “Hard work and getting dirty is part of our DNA. When you look at traditional metal fabrication businesses, generally speaking, they’re smaller and family-owned, which means that they don’t have a professional level of management, which both Rich and I bring,” Thompson said. Both Thompson and Ballenger have been focused on getting rid of operational and clerical inefficiencies at the business. They’ve also been updating the plant to provide more space for employees. A new breakroom will be constructed to free up space on the shop floor. A new website for CR Industries will also launch in the coming weeks. An updated logo and signage is also in the works. CR Industries was founded by Clarence Weisflog in 1985. The company has doubled its annual revenues since 2019. The firm has 45 employees. “They believed we could take this business to the next level and at the same time treat their employees and customers fairly,” Thompson said. CR Industries’ product lines include metal point-of-purchase displays. Its customers include Waukesha-based Generac Power Systems Inc. and Brookfield-based Howard Company Inc.
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