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Rotational molder Elkhart Plastics expanding

By: Bill Bregar

November 28, 2012

SOUTH BEND, IND. (Nov. 28, 3:55 p.m. ET) — Custom rotational molder Elkhart Plastics Inc. is adding a 25,000-square-foot expansion and plans to add 50 new jobs over the next three years at its headquarters in South Bend.

CEO Jack Welter said the company initially plans to hire about 20 people, and buy two rotomolding machines, for the addition. That will bring Elkhart Plastics’ total square footage to more than 100,000 in South Bend. Site preparation has already begun, and the expansion should be completed by end of the first quarter of 2013.

Welter said the company is spending $1.75 million for the building, two machines and to hire the 20 employees. The Indiana Economic Development Corp. reports the total investment at $3.8 million, but Welter said that figure includes additional machines and another 30 workers, which will be added over the next three years.

Welter said part of the expansion is to handle a large contract for emissions systems for diesel-powered heavy equipment, such as tractors, construction equipment, and semi trucks. The focus on reducing emissions has led to an increased for rotomolded components, he said. He declined to give more details.

Meanwhile, company officials have brought back the well-known Elkhart Plastics name for the entire company, scrapping the former moniker of Indiana Rotomolding. In early 2011, Welter and a group of fellow managers bought five custom rotomolding plants from Olympus Partners, a private equity firm. The plants were Elkhart Plastics and Bonar Plastics operations.

Welter is an Elkhart Plastics veteran who became president in 1994.

Elkhart Plastics is the eighth-largest rotomolder in North America, with sales of $61.5 million, according to the latest Plastics News ranking. The company runs 41 rotomolding machines at five plants, three in Indiana—South Bend, Elkhart and Middlebury—and one each in Littleton, Colo., and Ridgefield, Wash.

Elkhart Plastics is getting government help for the expansion in South Bend. The Indiana Economic Development Corp. will give the company up to $250,000 on conditional tax credits and up to $35,000 in training grants, contingent on job creation.

The city of South Bend also is considering additional property tax abatement, IEDC said.

Welter said the training grants are important to help find and train people in rotomolding. He said finding good workers is “the only limiting factor to our aggressive growth plan.”

Rotational molding is physical work, and the machine operators play an important role in producing quality products, Welter said.

“You can train somebody. It really comes down to finding people who want to put in a good day’s work for a good day’s pay,” he said. “We’re certainly willing to train people who are willing to commit to us.”

Elkhart Plastics employs about 500 at the five plants.

Elkhart Plastics was founded in 1988 with one machine molding parts for Indiana’s recreational vehicle industry. Welter said the Hoosier State has good proximity to customers.

“We place a great deal of value in our relationship with the city of South Bend and the state of Indiana and appreciate the effort that went into allowing us to expand,” he said.