Timing, incentive and need form key ingredients in Penda Corp.'s expansion of its Tri-Glas Industries fiberglass unit set up in a former retail store in southwest Wisconsin. ``They are expanding a division of their Alabama facility,'' said Rita Elver, part-time executive director of the Platteville (Wis.) Area Economic Development Corp.
``They will expand their tonneau cover and camper top capacity'' to serve customers in the Midwest, she said.
Portage, Wis.-based Penda acquired Tri-Glas in mid-1995 from VMC Fiberglas Products Inc. and soon began its search for an additional site to produce rigid fiberglass tonneau covers used to protect contents in beds of pickup trucks.
``They called here in February,'' Elver said.
Wisconsin was looking to create economic opportunities in the wake of employment setbacks in the Platteville area, Gov. Tommy Thompson said in an Oct. 31 announcement of the Tri-Glas expansion.
Advance Transformer Co., a unit of Philips Electronics NV of the Netherlands, phased out an inefficient, 144,000-square-foot fluorescent ballast plant and, over two years, cut 680 jobs. Earlier, a meat packer closed.
``Penda Corp. will create 150 jobs over the next three years and invest approximately $850,000 to restore the former Kmart building to productive use as a fully equipped manufacturing plant,'' Thompson said.
The Tri-Glas unit employs about 250 at its plant in Daleville, Ala., and manufactures fiberglass accessories for pickup trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles. Products include running boards and truck caps for the aftermarket and sleeper cabs for heavy-duty truck manufacturers. Tri-Glas projects 1996 sales of $15 million.
Remodeling and utility improvements will begin soon. Kmart constructed the 52,000-square-foot building in 1980 and vacated it in 1993.
The state's Commerce Department is reviewing a state incentive package for the project, according to Commerce Secretary William McCoshen.
Grant County's Job Service is accepting applications from pro-spective employees, and the Platteville campus of the University of Wisconsin will help.
``I anticipate we will be able to provide technical assistance and interns to the facility,'' said Howard Brooks, an EDC board member and a university industrial studies outreach coordinator.
``Platteville, with its strong work ethic, is an excellent partner for Penda,'' Dan Braun, Penda chief executive officer, said in the release.
In its 250,000-square-foot Por-tage operation, Penda employs about 320 and reported 1995 sales of $66 million, ranking 12th in Plastics News' 1996 thermoformers survey.
Penda operates 15 lines using extrusion and heavy-gauge thermoforming equipment to make mostly original-equipment and aftermarket truck-bed liners.
Penda opened a plant in Toluca, Mexico, in mid-1995 to penetrate Latin American automotive markets and is involved in a contract manufacturing agreement to make bed liners in Melbourne, Australia.
Platteville, with about 10,000 residents, gets a boost each summer as the training camp for the Chicago Bears football team. According to Elver, Wisconsin ``has directed [industrial] prospects to us and given us opportunities,'' but the community also has been active.
Platteville's EDC invested $225,000 to construct a 20,000-square-foot shell building that was completed in early 1996. It remains unsold, but ``we've had interest because of that building,'' Elver said. New owners could finish the interior and begin operations within a few months.