Industry leader buys Keiser Homes with plans to expand, hire more

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OXFORD — A leader in the modular home business has acquired Keiser Homes and is expected to expand the business and hire more people to meet a growing demand throughout the Northeast.

“Due to our growth, we needed additional capacity,” Excel Homes President Phil Hickman said. “It just made sense for us to acquire Keiser Homes.”

The local business, which employs about 100, has been in operation for more than 20 years.

Hickman declined to discuss the purchase price. Production work began to shift from Excel Homes’ Liverpool, Pa., plant to the Oxford plant about a month ago, he said.

He said he expects to retain local managers and employees.

Excel was founded in 1984 and is owned by Innovative Building Systems in Wexford, Pa. It has more than 800 employees, a sustained growth of 5 percent to 10 percent per year and has built more than 28,000 homes, according to the company’s website.

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Stephen Vlachos of Caswell Vlachos Group in Portland was hired by R.J. Findlay & Co. of Milford, N.H., which purchased Keiser Homes in 2009,  to locate an appropriate buyer and facilitate the transaction.

“It’s huge for the state of Maine,” Vlachos said.

The company bought Keiser’s machinery, trucks, trailers, equipment and customer list, and has an option to buy the 24-acre site on Route 121 within the next five years.

Vlachos said additional people are expected to be brought in to handle production that is just about double what Keiser Industries is doing now. The move will allow them to stay open through the winter.

“It’s a big deal for the people,” Vlachos said. Modular construction employees traditionally experience layoffs in the winter when production slows down, he said.

He said the company brought in a consultant from Massachusetts several months ago to begin the transition.

At the same time R.J. Finlay & Co. purchased Keiser Homes, it bought Maine’s remaining brick manufacturer, Morin Brick Co. of Auburn. The sale by R.J. Findlay of Keiser Homes to Excel Homes did not include Morin Brick Co. That company remains with the R.J. Findlay group, Hickman said.

Excel Homes is no stranger to the Maine modular-housing market. It has made modular buildings at its Pennsylvania production centers for Maine customers over the years. In 2008, it came close to purchasing the former Oxford Homes in Oxford after that business ceased operations in April of that year.

Excel Homes officials had hoped to reopen the Oxford Homes plant at that time under the Excel name and to bring 50 to 70 hourly and salaried jobs to the area, but the modular-housing market slump forced Excel to change plans.

The building now houses MGA Cast Stone.

The Oxford Hills once boasted a thriving manufacturing/modular housing industry, but many of the businesses, such as Burlington Homes and Oxford Homes, shut down over the past five to 10 years as the economy slowed. Industry leaders say the larger companies, such as Keiser industries and KBS Building Systems in Paris, have relied on commercial contracts to boost their production.

ldixon@sunjournal.com

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