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Highland sale now complete

WORTHINGTON -- "Quick and intense" was the way Champion Enterprises courted Highland Manufacturing, according to Highland president Greg DeGroot on Monday.

And now that the Worthington modular and manufactured homes builder has been sold, DeGroot sees bright futures ahead for both companies. The sale, which concluded Friday, allows Highland Manufacturing greater access to markets and more purchasing power. Champion Enterprises Inc., based in Auburn Hills, Mich., is already a national leader in factory-built construction with 1.6 million homes purchased through its facilities since 1953.

Champion's debt-free acquisition of Highland is valued at $23 million.

"I'm thrilled," DeGroot said. "It's always been a plan of mine that I someday wanted to put Highland under the umbrella of a major."

Highland Manufacturing employs approximately 180 to 200 people, and DeGroot said employees were informed of the acquisition process from the very beginning. DeGroot will continue as company president, and continuity will be maintained for other employees as well, he said.

"That's kind of the beauty of the thing," DeGroot said. "No changes. ... It's business as usual, and let's go forward. The last thing they want to see is change.

"We're just a well-run company. We're very effective at what we do. They just want to enhance the margins if they can with their purchasing power."

Highland Manufacturing, in business since 1986, has been a portfolio company of the Minneapolis-based private equity investment firm Norwest Equity Partners (NEP) since April 2000. Highland is recognized as a leading regional manufacturer, manufacturing homes for Minnesota, Colorado, Kansas, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

More than 60 percent of the Worthington company's current production is modular, representing its most significant growth area in recent years. Highland's 2006 sales are approximately $32 million.

Champion operates 33 manufacturing facilities in North America and partners with more than 3,000 independent retailers, builders and developers.

"This acquisition is another important step in furthering the strategy to expand our modular market share," said William Griffiths, Champion Enterprises chairman, president and CEO, on the company Web site. "By acquiring Highland, we will increase our manufacturing, distribution and builder/developer coverage in several key states currently underserved by Champion.

"Highland has posted steady and consistent sales and margin expansion over the past five years," Griffiths added. "Greg and the rest of the Highland team have built an extremely well-run organization with an excellent reputation and dedication to quality and service."

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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