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Linear back in local hands after volley of ownership changes

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It has been a whirlwind couple of years for the staff at Linear AMS.

The manufacturing company was slated to close in June, leaving some 100 workers without a job. Owner Moog Inc. planned to take Linear’s additive manufacturing equipment and some employees to its East Aurora, N.Y., headquarters and shut down operations at the company’s four Livonia facilities. Before finalizing the move, Moog extended a lifeline to Lou Young, who oversaw tooling and injection molding operations.

He was asked to explore divesting and selling the other operations at Linear. Then he decided to see if he could find a way to buy it himself. Young, a Livonia native and Stevenson High School graduate, turned to the man who started Linear in 2003 – John Tenbusch.

“Their interest in Linear was in the emerging additive manufacturing technology,” Young said. “Moog was interested in keeping as many jobs as possible and this was a way to do it.”

Tenbusch established Linear Mold and Engineering in Livonia 14 years ago. The company grew with his focus on the latest technology. Linear was one of the first companies to own a 3-D metal printer when it purchased its first such machine in 2005.

“We learned what we could about any kind of new technology,” Tenbusch said. “It spurred a lot of other technology applications and we learned how this would benefit our customers.”

With Tenbusch looking for additional support for Linear’s additive manufacturing operations, Moog bought 70 percent of the company in December 2015. As minority owner, Tenbusch continued to work as a consultant for most of 2016, until he sold the remainder of his interests in the company. He was interviewing for other jobs when Young called him earlier this year to explore reacquiring the company.

“I was offered a couple of really good opportunities, but it would have required me to move and I really didn’t want to move,” Tenbusch said. “In this deal, I wanted to make sure we could continue being innovative, particularly with additive manufacturing.”

Tenbusch and Young established a partnership and closed the deal with Moog in July. The timing of the deal enabled the company’s employees and customers to continue their relationships without interruption. Linear AMS continues to run the four Livonia buildings and 89 employees.

“It was very stressful looking for the way to work things out, keep everything together, and make sure people don’t jump ship,” Young said.

With a focus on advanced manufacturing solutions, the duo will keep the name: Linear AMS. They have some 50 automotive, appliance, and industrial customers. The immediate focus is to grow the business with low-volume injection molding and injection tool building. In 2018, they plan to rebuild the additive manufacturing operation.

“We are both coming back a little smarter,” Tenbusch said. “We will stay focused on segments and industries where we’ve done well.”

Livonia Chamber of Commerce President Dan West said Linear was getting more involved in community efforts to boost interest in skilled-trades careers.

“We are happy to see Linear is here to stay,” West said. “It would have been disappointing to see that company, and all it accomplished, disappear. It is good for our community that Moog, John and Lou were able to work things out to keep Linear going with a viable path into the future.”

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