Preferred Compounding, a longtime Barberton rubber company, is expanding south of the border, buying a facility in San Luis Potosi, in central Mexico.


The local company’s executives stress that the Mexican plant, bought from a Spanish business, isn’t about moving jobs.


“We won’t move any production from the United States to Mexico,” said Joe Hudson, vice president of sales and business development at Preferred Compounding, which offers custom-mixed rubber compounds to a variety of industries. “This is all-new growth and new product for us.”


The plant in Mexico produces rubber compounds for makers of auto and appliance parts that are made in Mexico for assembly into finished products, also made in Mexico.


“Honda, Ford, GM, Nissan … all of the [large automakers] have automotive plants there,” Hudson explained.


Preferred Compounding bought the 66,000-square-foot facility from Iacp Jevsa, which has main offices near Barcelona, Spain.


Terms of the sale were not disclosed.


The Mexican plant has 20 employees. “We definitely have plans and intention to grow from there,” Hudson said.


Preferred Compounding, tucked in an industrial area behind the old Reiter Dairy at Wooster and Waterloo roads, now has 255 employees. The payroll totals 107 employees in Barberton, including a new shift of 14 workers.


Hudson said that the Spanish company, Iacp Jevsa, established the Mexican plant about six years ago and ran into difficulty getting raw materials — polymers, chemicals, carbon black — from North American suppliers at a competitive price.


Preferred Compounding, Hudson said, with a well established base of North American suppliers “has much better access to raw materials at competitive costs.”


Ken Bloom, Preferred Rubber’s CEO, said the purchase is a natural step.


He noted that U.S.-based customers have for several years been requesting custom compounds for use in their Mexican plants.


It’s often cost prohibitive to ship rubber compounds, made in the United States, to Mexico, Hudson explained.


Scott Lieberman, who joined Preferred Compounding last year, is general manager of the Mexican plant, dubbed Preferred Compounding de Mexico. Lieberman also is vice president of strategic initiatives for Preferred Compounding.


Lieberman, Preferred Compounding said, is a mechanical engineer with more than a decade in the rubber industry, including five years of experience in Mexico.


Preferred Rubber expanded through acquisition in 2006 when it purchased Associated Rubber Co. of Georgia. That transaction included compounding plants in Tallapoosa, Ga., Fruithurst, Ala., and Huntingdon, Tenn.


Bloom said that after weathering the recession, the company has been adding new customers and increasing sales. Annual revenues are more than $100 million.


“It’s been a really good story for Northeast Ohio,” Hudson said. “We’ve got a successful business here in a not very glamorous industry.”


Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com.