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After buyout, River Falls plastics firm to remain fully operational, staffed

In late 2012, employees of Interfacial Solutions in River Falls gather for the commissioning of a newly installed twin screw extruder. This is the type of equipment used to make thermoplastic compounds, including some used by Stratasys, the international firm that’s buying Interfacial. (Submitted photo to River Falls Journal)

First a customer, then a buyer.

The friendly transaction between local thermoplastics producer Interfacial Solutions and 3D printing firm Stratasys, with dual headquarters in Eden Prairie, Minn., and Rehovot, Israel, was made last week.

Jeff Cernohous, Interfacial’s chairman and founder, said the asset purchase agreement of his company should be followed with a closing deal by early summer.

None of the 40 employees from Interfacial Solutions, 949 Antler Court in Whitetail Ridge Corporate Park, will be laid off. Cernohous said company sales last year totaled just under $6 million.

Interfacial bills itself as a leading provider of “full service, idea-to-production, contract research and development services to the plastics industry.”

Its facility is equipped with the latest polymer testing and melt processing equipment to perform rapid, effective product development tasks for customers. One such customer for the past three years has been Stratasys.

For the foreseeable future Cernohous -- a 1989 River Falls High School graduate who also graduated from UW-River Falls and has a doctorate in organic chemistry from the University of Minnesota -- will continue overseeing day-to-day operations and “providing executive leadership decisions.”

Cernohous said the Interfacial Solutions name will also continue for now.

The deal allows Stratasys to pick up Interfacial’s 8-acre option to build in the corporate park next to Viking Coca-Cola Bottling Company, 2814 Prairie Drive.

Cernohous said there’s a “reasonable chance” Stratasys will expand and build on that site in the years ahead.

He said that Stratasys, with 2,200 employees worldwide, plans to hire 400 more this year and that the River Falls location will eventually tap into that job creation.

Cernohous said customer ties established with Stratasys made it easier to sell his young company -- one that formed in 2003, opened in the corporate park in 2007, then expanded and more than doubled its original plant size to 42,000 square feet in 2010.

“I’ve always told people there are only a handful of companies in the world that I’d consider selling to, and Stratasys is one of them,” Cernohous said. “The company has great people, its growing rapidly and has innovative technology that is changing the world.

“Our business here has the opportunity to make them even greater.”

Stratasys manufactures 3D printing equipment and materials that create physical objects -- heated plastic materials that are shaped and harden as they cool -- from digital data. Its systems range from affordable desktop printers to large, advanced 3D production systems.

Interfacial manufactures thermoplastic (meltable) compounds that can be used in various 3D printing applications.

Cernohous said he’s a “hometown boy” and “job security” for Interfacial employees was important. He said this was not a “classic acquisition” leading to worker layoffs.

One person leaving Interfacial Solutions is its CEO, Gregg Bennett.

Bennett has become CEO of Magma Flooring, 283 Troy St., in the River Falls industrial park.

Magma, a spinoff of Interfacial Solutions, opened earlier this year. It produces flooring materials made from recycled plastic and natural fillers that are said to be safer for the environment.

Cernohous said the buyout deal for Interfacial Solutions didn’t come up suddenly but was “in the works for almost a year.”

Interfacial Solutions was recognized in 2006 with the St. Croix County Emerging Business Award; made the 2010 Inc. 500 list of the most entrepreneurial and fastest growing companies in the U.S.; and last December in Madison received the Wisconsin Business Innovation Award for a small business.

Cernohous and his wife Kristie live in Hudson. They have two sons who attend the public schools in River Falls.