Hitachi buys Waupaca; third owner for 13-year-old Etowah foundry

Hitachi buys Waupaca; third owner for 13-year-old Etowah foundry

August 20th, 2014 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Shawn Price, a Waupaca Foundry pattern shop foreman, works on a new cast Monday afternoon at the Waupaca Foundry plant in Etowah, Tenn.

Photo by Staff File Photo/Times Free Press.

People work at the Waupaca plant in Etowah, Tenn., in 2004.

A Japanese automotive supplier is buying the world's largest producer of ductile iron and gray iron castings. which operates a 550-employee plant in Etowah, Tenn.

Hitachi Metals Ltd. signed an agreement Tuesday to acquire Waupaca Foundry from its current owner, KPS Capital Partners LP. The New York equity firm acquired Waupaca two years ago and has since built up sales at all six of its foundries.

Terms of the sale, which is expected to close this fall, were not announced.

Under KPS's ownership, Waupaca expanded all six foundries and added more than 200 jobs.

"This investment by Hitachi Metals in Waupaca Foundry's world-class facilities and capabilities is a validation of what we have accomplished over the past two years and signals a strong commitment to manufacturing and the foundry industry in the United States," Gary Gigante, president and CEO of Waupaca Foundry, said in a statement. "Partnering with Hitachi Metals will bring Waupaca Foundry significant global strength that will help us drive continued expansion."

The sale will bring the third owner to Waupaca's gray iron foundry in Etowah since the plant was built in 2001. ThyssenKrupp Waupaca Inc., the largest independent iron foundry company in the world, bought the former Budd Co. in 1978 and built a 270,000-square-foot foundry in Etowah in 2001.

Waupaca idled the Etowah plant amid the automotive industry slump in January 2010. But Waupaca reopened the plant two years later and added another 20,000-square-foot to the foundry.

Nationwide, Waupaca Foundry employs about 3,900 workers at plants in Tennessee, Wisconsin and Indiana. Waupaca serves customers in the automotive, commercial truck, agriculture, construction and other industrial markets.

Hitachi Metals was founded in 1910 as the Tobata Foundry and has a strong tradition in iron casting production, metal technology, and machining services. But Hitachi Metals does not make gray iron products so it does not compete directly with Waupaca.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.