Lawrence County didn't particularly want to be in the plastics processing business. But it did want manufacturing jobs to help reduce the Illinois county's 11 percent unemployment rate, and Daylight Plastics filled the bill. Terry Denison, executive director of Lawrence County Industrial Development Council in Law-renceville, Ill., notes that the business of attracting and retaining industry is highly competitive.
``There are literally hundreds of counties vying for industry in the United States,'' he said, ``and all of them have incentive packages. It was my feeling, because we're a small, rural community, that money spent on incentives could be better used if we could buy a company and move it here.''
That approach avoids the problem some communities encounter when companies leave after using up incentives, or fail to meet employment goals.
A year ago, the county purchased Daylight Plastics Inc., a custom injection molding company in Elberfeld, Ind., for a little less than $300,000. Daylight's owner was an engineer whose other company, Daylight Engineering, began taking up more of his time. Rather than close the business, he sold it, Denison said.
Although the county offered to relocate the company's six employees, they chose to stay in Elberfeld, where all of them got jobs in the plastics industry.
Before closing the Elberfeld plant and moving equipment, however, the county, along with several investors in the project, sent newly hired employees to Daylight to train in injection molding. In December, the company, which was renamed Daylight Plastics of Illinois Inc., moved to Bridgeport, Ill., a community of 2,500.
The investor group then purchased property from Marathon Oil, which announced in October that it was relocating. The site, which the county has turned into an industrial park, contains eight commercial buildings, and Daylight now occupies a 15,000-square-foot building there.
The company opened in March with six injection presses ranging with clamping forces of 100-400 tons, as well as a variety of auxiliary equipment. It serves the automotive, furniture, and health and fitness industries.
The Industrial Development Council owns 40 percent of Daylight Plastics. The remaining 60 percent is owned by investors, with William Hanson as president. His wife, Helen, is vice president, and their son Andrew is secretary-treasurer.
Finding private investors to throw in with the county to purchase Daylight was not difficult.
``The community said, `We want more jobs, and we're willing to put our money where our mouth is,'*'' Denison said.
Bringing the plant to Bridgeport also provided additional work for mold makers in Lawrence County, who in turn are drawing more apprentices from the mold-making program at Vincennes University in nearby Vincennes, Ind.
Denison said Daylight recently won a contract to mold parts for the U.S. military, and employs eight. He anticipates that number will quadruple in the next year or so. Finding good workers will not be a problem, either.
When Marathon left town, 300 workers were laid off.
Already the company is looking to become ISO 9000 certified, something that Illinois' Eastern Community College district can help them obtain through its customized ISO and employee training programs.
The county's intention is to sell its interest in Daylight eventually to other shareholders, and use the profit to buy another firm.
``We'd like to buy and relocate an industry at least once every two to three years,'' Denison said.