CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — As Paragon D&E President Dave Muir walks past the giant tool-making machinery on the floor of his plant, he points out heavy bronze and aluminum manifolds for oil wells sitting next to lightweight hulls for Yamaha Waverunners.
Nearby is a giant metal doughnut-shaped mold used to create composite parts for jet engines, a molded plastic door for the front of a house, and several wheeled trash containers.
As a defense contractor, they've even made parts that have gone on satellites orbiting the earth, according to Muir.
"That's all I can tell you," he says with a polite grin.
"The common element is they are all made with huge machinery that's highly accurate," says Muir, who recently held an open house to show off a 26,000-square-foot addition to Paragon's 140,000 square-foot facility in Cascade Township.
The $5 million addition will house some of the largest tool-making equipment in North America, using computer numerically controlled (CNC) systems to carve out giant blocks of aluminum, steel or high density foam.
The company's engineers use complex three-dimensional software programs to design molds that are whittled out of large chunks of metal with the CNC machines. In some cases, they will start with an 85,000-pound block to produce a tool that weighs 35,000 to 40,000 pounds, Muir says.
By developing a reputation for being able to build big tools and molds with a high degree of accuracy, Muir says they were able to stay afloat during the downturn in the domestic tool and die industry. Plastic News, a trade publication, ranked Paragon as one of the top-15 mold makers in North America.
"We're able cross-pollinate the technologies from one product to another," says Muir, whose company employs 225 and expects to post sales of $40 million this year. The company is still looking to hire another eight to ten machinists, mold makers and engineers, he said.
Though employment fell to about 120 and sales dropped to $34 million in the Great Recession, Muir says their diverse customer base kept them going.