INSIGHT ON: Economic Development – Expansion mode

Posted on Dec 6, 2013 :: Economic Development , Insight On
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer
Amerequip, which has locations in New Holstein and Kiel, is planning an expansion that will double its manufacturing capacity. Other Calumet County businesses also are planning to add on to their facilities and hire new employees. Photo courtesy Amerequip

Amerequip, which has locations in New Holstein and Kiel, is planning an expansion that will double its manufacturing capacity. Other Calumet County businesses also are planning to add on to their facilities and hire new employees. Photo courtesy Amerequip

Manufacturing jobs have long been the economic heart of Calumet County, and while large companies like Ariens Co. in Brillion continue to do well, there’s a new crop of small- and mid-size manufacturers making their mark in the county and beyond.

Worthington Cylinders is putting the finishing touches on an expansion project in Chilton that will add more than 150 jobs, while Thiel Cheese and Ingredients is expanding its Town of Woodville facility. And this March, Amerequip, which has locations in New Holstein and Kiel, will break ground on an expansion that will provide the company with the space it needs to double its manufacturing capacity.

Last summer, Worthington Cylinders announced plans to consolidate the manufacturing of its hand torch fuel cylinders in Chilton. The company will begin moving equipment from a New York facility to Chilton early next year with the goal of having everything under one roof by Memorial Day.

The company expects to hire more than 150 workers in Chilton as it brings in the additional work from the facility in Medina, N.Y., which will close next summer, says Roger Lacy, business unit coordinator for Worthington Cylinders in Chilton.

“We are really happy to keep these jobs in Chilton and it’s going to be great for the community,” he says.

Lacy says the company realized it would see dramatic savings by putting all operations under one roof, and the Chilton facility had the room. A few physical changes are being made to the current facility, and once the equipment starts to arrive from New York, the new employees will be hired.

“It’s going to be a big undertaking to find workers, but we are optimistic that we’ll draw people from outside of Chilton,” says Lacy, adding that most of the hourly jobs available are for unskilled workers and that some employees will make the move from New York to Chilton to keep their jobs. “Our goal is to have all our equipment and new workers into place by Memorial Day so we’re ready to roll then. We’re basically going to be doubling in size and gaining back some of the jobs we lost through the years” because of the economy.

Thiel Cheese and Ingredients is in the process of adding 30,000 square feet to its facility on County BB in the Town of Woodville. The company is installing another production line, creating a customer interaction center with more space for research and development and relocating company offices from the basement to the first floor. The entire project, including construction and new equipment, will cost $15 million.

Tests on the new project line will begin mid-month and Steve Davenport, director of development for Thiel Cheese, expects that 10 to 12 additional employees will be hired within the next year.

“For us, the future is innovation and solving customers’ problems,” Davenport says, adding the company mainly manufactures food service ingredients, such as the cheese inside sausages. “Our specialty is processed American cheese that is melt-restrictive so the cheese softens, but doesn’t completely melt. We really want to partner with customers on what their needs are and then meet those needs.”


Looking to the future

With three sites in New Holstein and one in Kiel, Amerequip provides engineering, designing and custom manufacturing for original equipment manufacturers, including John Deere, Case and Caterpillar.

“You won’t find the name ‘Amerequip’ stamped on anything, but rather we help larger manufacturers with their needs,” says Mike VanderZanden, president and chief executive officer.

To better meet its customers’ needs, Amerequip is planning to build a 70,000-square-foot addition at its Kiel facility, where it will consolidate all of its welding operations. The project, which will cost at least $5 million, will break ground in March and be finished by October.

“By putting all of our welding operations at one site, we free up space at our New Holstein manufacturing facility and that puts us in the position to grow our fabrication capabilities,” VanderZanden says. “By doing that, we’ll be able to expand our overall business.”

The state-of-the-art welding facility will help the company better meet customer demand and serve as a recruiting tool to attract top talent. “If you’re a welder and looking where to go, I think this state-of-the-art facility will make a real difference,” VanderZanden says.

The expansion is just the latest change the company is making to grow its business, he adds. A new training center was built in New Holstein and administrative changes were made to better handle a growing business. “We’ve really researched this and believe we are in a position to be the innovative partner businesses are looking for,” VanderZanden says.


Rethink the map

Say “Fox Cities” and Calumet County doesn’t usually pop to mind, but the county – which includes the southeast portion of the City of Appleton – is a key member of the Fox Cities Regional Partnership.

Julie Schmelzer, director of the research management department for Calumet County, says being a part of the group is essential in helping Calumet County grow.

“Calumet County believes it is critical to be a part of the FCRP because we recognize alone we are just one voice, but when all our municipalities, and businesses, in the region work together those voices can make a resounding boom. Alone, we don’t have the skills, or the resources, to market ourselves or provide the proper service to our businesses,” she says.

Larry Burkhart, executive vice president/chief economic development officer with the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce, says Calumet County brings a lot to the table when working with site selectors and businesses thinking of relocating.

“Calumet County has a diversity that appeals to employers and represents an area that has a lot of access to potential employees. People from Green Bay, Manitowoc, Sheboygan and the Fox Cities all drive to jobs in Calumet County,” he says. “It really expands our reach.”

By valuing regionalism, Schmelzer says “it makes the economy and culture of the region better for everyone when we can tap into the minds and talents of the area partners.”


Sherwood gets it’s wish

After years of talk, the Village of Sherwood is finally getting its own grocery store.

Previously, residents traveled to either Kaukauna or southeast Appleton to get anything more than the basics found in a gas station convenience store. But come next March, Dick’s Family Foods will provide residents with another option closer to home.

The 20,000-square-foot store is modeled after the one owned by the Vanden Wymelenberg family in Wrightstown and will include meat, bakery and deli departments.