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Modular success for Excel

The traditional home has long been built from the ground up using hammers, nails and other means to fasten wood, brick, concrete and other materials.

When the company now known as Excel Homes began building homes in 1984, it capitalized on a revolution transforming the modular home industry from a niche business into a mainstream option that today accounts for nearly 10 percent of all new homes. Until then, modular homes were mainly rectangular and suffered the stigma of being associated with the cheap homes that filled a market need in the post-war decades.

That housing need stemmed from the baby boom generation, which fueled strong population growth across the United States.

From a Juniata County manufacturing facility, Excel began making customized modular homes. Advances in Computer-Aided Design programs opened the door for creative modular designs.

Within a few years, Excel was constructing 2,000-square-foot family homes with all the modern amenities — all from the climate-controlled confines of its five factories. Today, the company is under the Innovative Building Systems Inc. umbrella, the result of the 2010 sale of Excel Homes to H.I.G. Capital, a Miami-based private investment firm.

H.I.G named Steven Scheinkman president and CEO and created IBS.

IBS, based in Lower Allen Township, claims to be the leading builder of modular homes in the United States. The original of its five factories is in Susquehanna Township, Juniata County, while others are in Maine, Virginia, Indiana and Iowa.

“The culture that exists at Excel is one of pride and relationships,” said Phil Hickman, president of Excel Homes and All American Homes, another IBS brand. “There are very strong relationships, not only with the employee base … but also the supplier base and the builder base. We treat our janitor the same as we treat our CEO.”

Tough times

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After more than 25 years of mostly strong growth, Excel Homes went through a tumultuous period in 2010. The down period coincided with the poor economy, which caused home sales to plummet.

President and CEO Steve Scharnhorst resigned in April, and the company was acquired a month later by H.I.G. Capital.

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