Business Success Stories – Starke County, Indiana
Business success requires vision, hard work, skill, and perseverance. A supportive community, and the advantages it can provide, can be key elements to support business growth.
This article celebrates some good examples of recent successes, and profiles the role of countywide economic development efforts, through the Starke County Development Foundation.Intended results are to inform our community of business success, the continued need for co-operation to support growth, and to provide information to the outside world that Starke County has many solid advantages as a location for business.
Starke County Development Foundation
The Starke County Development Foundation, established in 1985, works toward the goal of bringing new wealth and opportunities to the residents of Starke County.The Board of Trustees, the guiding body for the activities of the Foundation, represents a broad scope of interests in business, health care, media, government, finance, law, and utilities sectors, as well as the general public.
The Foundation’s Executive Director, Terry D. Kimmel and staff undertake the day-to-day activities.Liaison with governmental agencies, infrastructure development, marketing the County to the outside world, recruitment of new industry, and encouraging growth of our existing industrial base are all-important inter-related activities.
The Foundation maintains a working relationship with local, state, and federal agencies to ensure that economic development financing can be effectively and creatively applied to assist opportunities for expansion in the county.The recent successful intergovernmental effort lead by the Foundation to secure federal financing for the rail spur at the Knox Industrial Park is a recent example of successful leadership.After many years of planning, a Lead Track and Loading Dock were in place and in operation this past June at the Knox Industrial Park.Two plants have already taken full advantage of the $1.7 million facility, including Knox Fertilizer and Grand Rapids Alloys.The facility is attractive to industries requiring in particular, access to inbound rail transportation, for their expansion plans.
The Foundation must have a strategic plan and vision for the future economic development of the county. Successful communities are those that have a realistic strategy, including infrastructure planning, industrial land and sites that are in place to take advantage of future opportunities.The best economic development programs recognize a long-term commitment and vision for growth.An example of such activities is the Foundation’s use of Economic Development Income Tax (EDIT) revenues for roads, sewers, drainage, electricity, gas, and water services.The Foundation has an inventory of serviced land and buildings, and can assemble and package serviced land that can be sold at cost in order to be able to compete for new developments, and support expansion of existing industry.Support and encouragement of effective land use planning to preserve land for industrial expansion is also an important part of this task.
We must market the advantages of doing business in Starke County to the outside world.Foundation staff is working other economic development agencies in Northwest Indiana to market the region as a whole.More important is the role that staff plays in marketing our “value added”, which is most prominently displayed on the Foundation’s website, www.starkecounty.com.The website has data and analysis to support our value added as: “Small town life close to big city amenities, excellent accessibility to Midwest and national industrial and consumer markets, availability of hard-working employees, and a high quality of life”.
A critical and exciting phase in the economic development process occurs when companies or industrial location consultants contact the Foundation’s staff for information.This frequently means that Starke County is on the short list of potential sites for a new facility.Foundation staff must be able to promptly respond to ensure that information and potential sites are effectively packaged to display our competitive advantages.At this stage, analysis, data, and site information must be assembled, and contacts with governmental agencies established to ensure the best possible development proposal is presented.
In addition to new industry recruitment, the Foundation also actively supports the expansion of existing industries in Starke County.The Foundation acts as facilitator with government agencies and other support agencies such as utilities, to seek out assistance that can make such new, internally generated growth in employment and tax base a reality.
A key activity of the Foundation is to continue to explore and identify the advantages of doing business in Starke County. These ideas come from those businesses that have been successful here, and are particularly credible to the business community outside the county as a testimony to our advantages.
To this end, five recent “success stories” of businesses located in the county have been written with the co-operation of local business leaders.These industries have made a commitment to Starke County over the past few years. They have either located or expanded operations in the county, have purchased buildings and equipment, and are employing Starke County residents and paying taxes.We hope that these stories will raise awareness in the community in general, and ideas for stories in the future.
Hoosier Custom Plastics, LLC – Knox
Hoosier Custom Plastics is a recent addition to the industrial landscape of Starke County, located in the Knox Industrial Park.Established just 10 months ago by Craig Dulworth, Gordon Schenk, and Mike Tetzloff, with extensive experience in the plastics industry, the 16-employee company recently crossed the threshold to profitability, a remarkable achievement for a start-up manufacturing operation.
Last year the company purchased a 16,000 square foot industrial building and outfitted it with brilliant lighting, water circulation and purification systems, air systems, and a power upgrade.The plant currently has eight thermoplastic injection molding machines ranging from 50 to 385 tons; both vertical and horizontal.The company also has the capability to do pad printing, bagging, ultrasonic welding, and light assembly of plastic and metal products.
The key to success for the company has been the ability to provide high quality, precision injection molded products, with quick turnaround-time, and a relentless focus of customer satisfaction.Hoosier Custom Plastics serves customers in an array of industries including, automotive, bus, industrial product, recreational vehicle, and sports and leisure.While a number of their customers are concentrated in the Upper Midwest, they ship product throughout the United States.
In addition to market access benefits, a Midwest location has had a number of advantages for the company.Both during the start-up phase and on-going, the company has been able to tap into local expertise for tooling, plant maintenance, and quality system processes.Closer to home, there are advantages to a location in Starke County.A loyal and dedicated workforce is an asset, as a round-the-clock operation requires a high level of commitment to the company in terms of punctuality and teamwork, and a genuine caring for each other.
The company’s reputation is growing nationally, as new customers have been added throughout the US.A fascinating new product, which the company has been involved in, is the manufacturing of degradable golf tees.The company is focused, poised and has room to grow in the Knox Industrial Park.
Kruz Inc, a leading national producer of steel and aluminum semi dump trailers, is located in the Knox Industrial Park.The company has the unique capability to manufacture one-piece side construction steel dump trailers up to 40 feet long.To accomplish this, they utilize 2-20 foot, 1,000-ton pressbreaks that work in tandem.
The plant also manufactures other all-steel end dump trailers, and reverse combination dump trailers, with aluminum frames and steel bodies. The product line includes a variety of full and partial frame trailers, plus frameless trailers in both heavy duty and lightweight models. The 62,000 square foot manufacturing facility currently employs 30 workers.Annual sales volume is $6 million.
The company has recently upgraded its physical plant, the installation of enhanced lighting and interior fixtures, to prepare for future expansion.With the semi trailer industry is in a state of transition, the President, Kent Kruzick wants to be ready to take advantage of new opportunities.
Mr. Kruzick believes that Knox and Starke County provide several advantages in supporting his decision to remain here and potentially expand.The logistics of our location are attractive as the County is well served by highway networks. There is a supportive business climate, and the Development Foundation Board works for the benefit of all businesses.The costs of doing business are lower, including taxes.“Small town ethics” and staff loyalty play an important role in creating an environment of trust and personal responsibility.These are important values that serve both business and the community well.
I.P. Callison & Sons, a division of Callisons, Inc.
I.P Callison & Sons has been in business in Starke County since 1998.The company operated a warehousing operation at Knox to provide mint oil and related products to the candy (chewing gum) and personal care (oral care) products industries that are concentrated in the major metropolitan areas of the Upper Midwest.Starke County is an ideal location from the perspective of access to the company's customer base and as a source of raw materials that are grown and processed locally.
About three years ago the company embraced a significant opportunity to expand its operations in Starke County, at Hamlet.A large-scale mint distillery operation had ceased operations.The company saw the advantages of providing a range of manufacturing and blending services for its customers and purchased the buildings.Since that time, the company has re-fitted the distillery building with processing and blending equipment, added testing and laboratory facilities, and expanded and upgraded the utilities for its warehousing operation.
Callisons has made a major investment in plant and equipment and now employs ten people in the laboratory and distillery.This is a tribute to the advantages of doing business in Starke County.According to Daniel Filchak, Operations Manager, the cost of doing business here is much lower than a Metropolitan Chicago location, yet access to market is still excellent from Starke County.Access to skilled and professional staff is also an advantage as the universities in the region, such as Notre Dame and Purdue provide an available pool of skilled people in the biological and chemical sciences.
Dean's Weld & Fab, Inc.
"Quality leads the way to success" is the motto of Dean's Weld & Fab, Inc., located in Hamlet.The company is an ISO 9002 Certified automotive manufacturing outsourcing specialist, for metal finishing and re-working, and powder coating.The company, established in October 2002, spent six months acquiring equipment and staffing (23 employees) the operation.
The primary customers for the company are Tier I automotive parts suppliers, who supply interiors, seats, and painted metal products for the major automotive assembly plants in the nation.For example, the company applies powder coatings to BMW convertible parts, and for seat risers for Leer and Modineer, both suppliers of parts to General Motors.Dean’s Weld & Fab has developed specialized expertise in powder coatings of metals to increase the life of metal parts subject to corrosion.It has been granted ISO 9002 certification for its powder coatings operation.They also have developed state-of-the-art capabilities in washing and phosphate coating of metals as a new and effective means in preparing and treating metals for rust prevention.
The company has also become well known for its on-site consulting and training services, plus re-working of damaged products at its plant.On-site consulting services include quality inspection of General Motors' doors, hoods, and roofs manufactured by Lobdell Emery and metal finish training for the new Hummer manufacturing plant in nearby Mishawaka, Indiana.Staff from the company has recently assisted the Ford stamping plant at Chicago Heights, Illinois, to enhance quality of door parts for the new Ford 500. The company has re-worked damaged parts for General Motors’ Marion, IN stamping plant, and for the Hummer.
Location in Starke County has a number of important advantages for the company.The major customers, the parts suppliers and major assembly plants, are close-by.This is an advantage to both the consulting services and production services activities of the company.The excellent road system of interstate and US highways (Highway 30) and availability of frequent trucking services connects the plant to its customers on a same day shipping basis.According to Alvin Fletcher, CEO and Owner, the company can offer on-site services promptly, and can provide product treatment and re-working services quickly because they are located close to the automotive parts industry.
J.W. Hicks, Inc. – Knox
J.W. Hicks, Inc. is a manufacturer of refractory materials for the steel industry.The company has the advantage of being close to its major market, the nation’s primary steel industry that in large part is located in Northwest Indiana.
The company is expanding its plant in the Knox Industrial Park.The 33,000 square foot expansion will add 10 or more employees to the 30 employees currently working at the plant. The project will include new equipment, including a new high temperature kiln.Jim Hicks indicates that the $2.5 million expansion project will be finished in late July 2005 and will continue the trend to create jobs requiring high skill levels in the county.
Markets and industries are continually changing.New opportunities for industry attraction and expansion can happen at any time.The Starke County Development Foundation’s Board of Directors recognizes the need to be ready and capable to take advantage of any opportunity that may be presented.
By Derek Bjonback, Assistant Professor Business, PNC
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