GRAND RAPIDS (WWJ) – Former Michigan Gov. John Engler and three business leaders have formed an advisory board with the Grand Rapids-based private equity firm Blackford Capital to target Michigan-based investments.
Mark Murray, Mary Petrovich and David Porteous are the other members of the advisory board of what’s being called the Michigan Prosperity Fund.
Blackford Capital, a private equity company focused on acquiring, managing, and building middle-market manufacturing, distribution and service companies, created The Michigan Prosperity Fund in 2012. The company said the aim of the fund was to generate superior returns for investors within the state of Michigan while supporting the Michigan economy by maintaining local ownership of Michigan companies and protecting and creating jobs locally. Since the start of the Fund, Blackford has acquired two companies: Custom Profile, based in Grand Rapids, in August 2012 and Oak Park-based Mopec on June 6 of this year.
Engler is currently president of the Business Roundtable, a Washington, D.C.-based association of CEOs of large corporations that lobbies for pro-business public policy. Prior to that, Engler was president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers for six years. And before that, Engler spent a year and a half as president of the state and local government sector of Electronic Data Systems.
Engler served as the 46th Governor of Michigan from 1991 to 2003. Engler spent his entire career in government prior to EDS, being elected to the state House of Representatives at age 22 in 1970. He graduated in 1971 from Michigan State University with a degree in agricultural economics. He was elected to the Michigan State Senate in 1978. He was elected Senate Majority Leader in 1984 and served there until he was elected governor in 1990. While a state senator he earned a law degree from Cooley Law School in Lansing.
“I spent the majority of my career working to improve Michigan’s business environment and in my travels to each of Michigan’s counties I have seen many terrific small companies headed by talented executives,” Engler said. “My confidence in Blackford’s ability to preserve and expand these companies led me to accept a role as the chairman of the advisory board to Blackford’s Michigan Prosperity Fund. I am excited to help the Blackford team and the owners of Michigan companies provide solutions to both job creation and preservation and the potential it has to be a model nationally.”
Mark A. Murray serves as co-CEO and vice chairman of Meijer Inc., a retailer operating in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. Prior to Meijer, Murray served as president of Grand Valley State University from 2001 to 2006. He was Michigan state treasurer from 1999 to 2001 and vice president of finance and administration for Michigan State University from 1998 to 1999. Murray also serves on the boards of DTE Energy and Universal Forest Products and is a member of Business Leaders for Michigan.
Mary Petrovich is an operating executive focused on U.S. buyout opportunities in the industrial sector with The Carlyle Group, a $180 billion private equity firm. Prior to working at Carlyle, Petrovich was chairman and chief executive officer of Axle Tech International. Before Axle Tech, Petrovich served as president of Dura Automotive’s global $1 billion Driver Controls unit. Earlier, she held roles of increasing responsibility with AlliedSignal, leading several automotive/industrial businesses. Petrovich serves on the board of directors of Wabco, Modine Manufacturing Co., GT Advanced Technologies and Woodward Inc., all of which are publicly traded companies. She received her MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BSE in industrial operations engineering from the University of Michigan.
David L. Porteous is a partner at McCurdy Wotila & Porteous and is also a consultant with the international law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. He is currently lead director of the board of directors of Huntington Bancshares Inc. and serves on the board of Jackson National Life Insurance Co. of New York. Porteous is a recognized authority on economic development and has served on the board of directors of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., the Michigan Economic Growth Authority and the Michigan Strategic Fund. He is also the former chairman of the board of Michigan State University.
Private equity investors put $9.6 billion into 50 deals in Michigan last year, according to a report from the Private Equity Growth Council, putting the state 12th in dollar value and 13th in the number of investments. A study conducted in 2012 by the Institute for Exceptional Growth Companies and Pepperdine University found that companies that received private equity investments had a job creation rate that was 257 percent higher than the control group that did not receive private equity funding. The companies also generated revenue that was 129 percent higher than the control group.
Custom Profile is an extruder of plastic profile components and currently employs 165 people and also operates a facility in Mexico. The company’s primary customers included Herman Miller, Haworth, Steelcase, Electrolux, and Whirlpool. The company was founded in 1992 and has experienced tremendous growth both locally and with customers throughout North America.
Mopec was founded in 1992 and currently employs 75 people at its facility in Oak Park. It serves customers with a wide range of products for the pathology and mortuary market including the Mayo Clinic, Duke University Medical Center, Henry Ford Health System, Spectrum Health and the Cleveland Clinic.
Blackford Capital acquires, manages and builds middle-market manufacturing, distribution and service companies, with seven portfolio companies employing more than 950 people and with combined revenues of approximately $225 million. Blackford has offices in Grand Rapids and Santa Monica, Calif. Blackford has closed 27 transactions since 2005. The firm’s investment criteria includes mature, profitable businesses with revenues between $20 million and $100 million and with management teams that are either interested in remaining with the company to promote its continued growth or are seeking to retire. For more information, visit http://www.blackfordcapital.com.