Third generation acquires West Bend tool and die shop

Barton Products Corp., a West Bend precision machining shop, has been acquired by Valerie Hron and her husband Ray Batista. Hron is the granddaughter of the founder of Barton, and has been involved in the company for 19 years. Batista has worked there for 10 years.

The company’s name has been changed to Barton Precision Components. The acquisition was facilitated by Optimus Financial Services LLC, a Milwaukee-area firm that specializes in interim management, performance improvement and project management.

Hron purchased Barton from her father, uncles and their families. Terms of the deal, which closed at the end of December, were not disclosed.

During early 2007, Barton Products faced financial hardships, largely because of problems associated with a large, state-of-the-art 66 axis CNC machine the company purchased several years ago. The machine was partially shut down and orders slowed because it couldn’t produce parts at the speed it normally did, Hron said.

"We were at a crossroads," she said. "It was really time for the third generation to continue the business."

Because of the company’s financial troubles, it was difficult to put the sale together, both Hron and Kevin Seiberlich, managing director at Optimus Financial Services, said. But when the machine was repaired in mid spring, 2007, the company started to turn the corner.

Associated Bank helped finance the acquisition.

Barton Precision Components, which has 74 employees, is positioned for significant growth this year, Hron said.

"We’ve only been a company for three weeks, but during that short time our sales, which tend to be strong in the first quarter, are stronger than they were last year at a comparable time," she said. "We are, despite what we’re hearing in the marketplace, not seeing that 2008 will be a terrible year. We’re predicting that we will have an increase in sales, which will translate to our bottom line."

Hron also predicts hiring additional workers this year, because sales should increase. Because the company’s 66 axis CNC machine has been fixed, it can effectively compete with offshore manufacturers like China, while delivering quick turnaround times.

Buying the company has been a lifelong dream, Hron said.

"I don’t have blood. I have cutting oil going through my veins," she said. "I’ve had a passion for this business – everything I’ve ever done from an education standpoint, has been with this in mind. It’s what I’ve always wanted."

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