Published in Economic Development

MiBiz Growth Report: Dec. 5, 2022

BY Sunday, December 04, 2022 05:47pm

A roundup of mergers and acquisitions, expansions and other briefs across West Michigan.


  • Cascade Township-based Cascade Engineering Inc. has sold its powersports division to private equity-backed Walbro LLC, a McLean, Va.-based global manufacturer of critical engine components. The deal included Cascade Engineering’s South Plant at 5141 36th Street, which Walbro will continue to operate with the former Cascade team. Cascade’s powersports division manufactures various precision molded plastic parts for OEMs in the sector, including Harley Davidson, Polaris and Honda Powersports. The sale comes as Cascade shifts its focus to large-tonnage injection molding. A portfolio company of U.K.-based Nova Capital Management Ltd. and Boston-based Landon Capital Partners LLC, Walbro currently has operations in Cass City in the Thumb area. Birmingham-based Angle Advisors LLC served as Cascade’s investment banker in the deal. The Walbro deal is Cascade’s second sale of a division this year. In June, the plastic injection molding manufacturer sold CK Technologies LLC, previously its largest division that focused on commercial trucks and buses. 
  • Walker-based Kentwood Packaging Corp. has sold its corrugated packaging business to Atlanta, Ga.-based Hood Container Corp., a wholly-owned subsidiary of family-owned Hood Companies Inc. The deal allows owner Tom Boluyt to retire after 41 years with Kentwood Packaging. Jack Skoog will continue as general manager at the company. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Chicago-based investment banking firm P&M Corporate Finance, an affiliate of Plante Moran, served as the exclusive financial adviser for Kentwood Packaging in the deal, which closed in August. 
  • Norton Shores-based automotive aftermarket parts manufacturer AGS Company Automotive Solutions LLC has acquired BluDot Manufacturing, a South Bend, Ind.-based brake systems supplier to manufacturers of recreational vehicles, motor homes, trailers and over-the-road semi-trailers. The acquisition of the second-generation family-owned BluDot furthers AGS’s push into aftermarket and original equipment braking parts and systems. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The deal is the third this year for AGS, a portfolio company of Pittsburgh, Pa.-based private equity firm 3 Rivers Capital since 2016. The company previously acquired Alcoa, Tenn.-based BrakeQuip LLC and Gilroy, Calif.-based Motive Products. 
  • Grand Rapids-based Tommy’s Boats LLC, a retailer of ski, wake and pontoon boats, is expanding its operations in California with the acquisition of Larson Marine Inc., a Stockton, Calif.-based watersports dealer. Under a definitive agreement, Tommy’s Boats will add locations in Rancho Cordova and Stockton, bolstering its presence in Northern California. Tommy’s currently operates stores in Ventura, Castaic and Fresno. Family-owned Larson Marine is one of the largest dealers of the Malibu and Axis brands of ski and wake boats and the Bennington line of pontoons. The company also operates the Wake Zone Pro Shop, a watersports store. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Tommy’s currently operates 14 dealerships and nine additional rental programs across an eight-state market, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Tennessee and Texas. In Michigan, the company operates stores in Grand Rapids, Waterford and Walloon Lake, selling the Axis, Chaparral, Cobalt, Crownline, G3, Malibu, Manitou, Robalo, Skeeter, Starcraft and Tahoe brands. 
  • Grand Rapids-based private equity firm Blackford Capital acquired Artificial Turf Supply LLC, a Carlsbad, Calif.-based maker, distributor and internet-based supplier of synthetic and artificial turf products, according to a statement. The company serves customers in the residential, commercial playground, pet and athletic markets across the U.S. The acquisition was the second for Blackford’s Patio Consolidation Portfolio for products in the home outdoor market. Blackford Capital last month acquired Starfire Direct, a Temecula, Calif.-based maker of fireplaces, gas fire pits and high-end custom products for both residential and commercial uses.


Venture capital

  • Grand Rapids-based Grand Ventures participated in a $4.7 million seed capital round for Payload LLC, a developer of an open-sourced content management system. Google’s Gradient Ventures led the round for Payload, which is based in Grand Rapids. Other investors include New York City-based MongoDB Ventures, Mountain View, Calif.-based Y Combinator, San Francisco-based SV Angel, Miami, Fla.-based Exceptional Capital, and several angel investors.



  • An equity investment from United Airlines Ventures could allow startup advanced battery company Natron Energy Inc. to ramp up production in Holland via a partnership with automotive battery supplier Clarios International Inc., according to a statement. Santa Clara, Calif.-based Natron Energy is a producer of sodium-ion batteries aimed at industrial uses varying from electric vehicle fast chargers to critical backup power systems and other behind-the-meter applications. In May, the company announced a strategic partnership with Clarios International, a Milwaukee-based automotive battery company that operates the Meadowbrook advanced battery plant in Holland. Natron expects to begin production of its sodium-ion batteries on existing lithium-ion battery manufacturing lines inside the Meadowbrook facility starting next year.
  •  John Kennedy, the founder and president of Kentwood-based Autocam Medical, was appointed as interim CEO by the board of directors at Horizon Global Corp. (NYSE: HZN), a Plymouth-Mich.-based designer, manufacturer and distributor of custom-engineered towing, trailering, cargo management and other related accessory products. The appointment followed the resignation of former CEO Terrence Gohl. Horizon Global includes the Draw-Tite, Reese, Westfalia, Bulldog, Fulton and Tekonsha brands. Kennedy has chaired the board of Horizon Global since becoming a director in April 2019. The interim appointment finds Kennedy in the familiar position of running a public company, having led Autocam Corp. as CEO during its tenure as a publicly traded company from 1991 to 2000. 



  • Sparta-based ChoiceOne Bank opened a loan office in Auburn Hills in Oakland County. Matt Ankley, the bank’s market manager for commercial lending in Oakland County, leads the new office. ChoiceOne Bank has 35 offices in parts of Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon, Newaygo, Lapeer, St. Clair and Macomb counties.
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