When COVID-19 sequestered us all at home, it didn’t take long for creativity to spring from the boredom of staring at the same four walls day-in and day-out. Of those creative endeavors came a newfound love for pottery and ceramics – and with that, a sizable backlog for kiln manufacturers like Paragon Industries.
“The hobby market for kilns and ovens took off during the pandemic,” noted Todd Lokash, former president and now owner of Paragon, which is based in Mesquite, Texas.
Lokash was named president by the company’s previous owners in 2013 after an impressive career in construction and manufacturing that had him overseeing metal fabrication projects from rail cars to building components for NFL stadiums and factories, including mechanical, electrical and HVAC systems.
An Opportunity for Ownership
The family-owned business was founded more than seven decades ago and is one of the leading multinational kiln manufacturer in the United States, serving consumer and industrial customers around the globe. Operating out of a 52,000-square foot manufacturing facility, the company has more than 60 full-time employees, including two research and development engineers and three customer support agents.
I was trying to acquire a business during COVID, which was hard. Todd Lokash, owner of Paragon Industries
As part of early succession planning, Lokash was intended as the heir apparent to the Paragon legacy, and in July 2023, he became the sole owner of the business. Though it wasn’t an easy journey as he attempted to work with other financial institutions, it was with the help of Regions Bank that this plan was finally fully baked.
“I was trying to acquire a business during COVID, which was hard,” said Lokash. “Trent Kimball from Regions had called me one day while I was deep into the process with another bank, and after I had explored the process with several other banks but kept running into stalls and roadblocks.”
Kimball, a relationship manager in the bank’s SBA Lending group, had been introduced to Lokash by Zach Eaves, a business development associate in Regions Commercial Banking Solutions.
At the time, Lokash had planned to continue down the long road with a financial institution that he was already familiar with. But at the final hour, that bank threw in a condition that he simply wasn’t going to get comfortable with. It was then that he picked up the phone to learn more about Regions from Kimball.
Enter Regions Bank
“Trent’s card was on my desk, and I called him after we’d had a few conversations over a year and a half,” said Lokash. “He was very positive and took the time to listen and understood what I wanted. It was a breath of fresh air.”
Shortly after, Kimball pulled together a team of bankers at Regions to meet with Lokash in his Paragon office.
Trent’s card was on my desk, and I called him after we’d had a few conversations over a year and a half. He was very positive and took the time to listen and understood what I wanted. It was a breath of fresh air.Todd Lokash
“Trent showed up with his team to my office to get an understanding of what Paragon was about and what I was about,” Lokash said. “I could tell they really believed in me. They saw my vision for the company and the possibility. I was enthused and refreshed after that first meeting. I had been working towards acquiring this business for three years. We worked hard and the team worked hard to make it happen – and on the terms I was looking for. Trent listened and he believed in me.”
The feeling was mutual.
“I saw Todd’s vision and his intense commitment to making his dream a reality, and on his own terms,” said Kimball, Fort Worth-based SBA specialist at Regions. “He came to every meeting with all of the documentation and a clear vision for Paragon’s future.”
Evolving an Industry
During his tenure as president, Lokash was focused on transformation, not just at Paragon, but in the kiln industry itself.
“It is a very niche industry, and I learned early on that the players kept things very close to the vest,” said Lokash. “I wanted to change that, so I invited others from the industry in to see what we were doing, to spur conversations about best practices and evolution within the market.”
As he noted, the hobby market really soared during the pandemic, but where he sees big opportunities are in the industrial market. Paragon already has large industrial clients around the world, including energy, transportation, medical, dental, jewelry, cutlery, auto, aircraft and many more. Lokash has his sights set on growing in the industrial kiln market.
“I see the business growing. I want to increase international sales, which had fallen off in the wake of COVID,” said Lokash. “The real growth is in industrial sales. The global industrial heat treat market is leading the demand – and Paragon makes incredibly efficient heat treat ovens.”
With the acquisition process completed, Lokash is now free to focus on the business of tapping into those multimillion-dollar industrial kiln opportunities.