Nearly a year after a devastating tornado leveled parts of Norland Plastics Co. in Haysville, Kan., the custom injection molder is almost back to full capacity. "We still have a few jobs farmed out, but we're starting to bring those back," President Charles Landwehr said in a March 10 telephone interview.
A three-mile-wide tornado roared through the small town May 3 during the company's second shift. The 80 employees working at the time all were able to make it down to the storm shelter just in time, he said.
The tornado was classified as an F4 by the National Weather Service, containing winds between 207-260 mph. The strongest tornado listed on the Fujita Scale is an F5.
Norland occupied two buildings across the street from one another. The building that housed the office, warehouse and tooling space was destroyed. Approximately 30,000 square feet of that space still has not been rebuilt, Landwehr said.
The manufacturing plant sustained significant damage. However, there was enough of the building left to sustain 75 percent of the operations, which resumed only a week after the tornado, he said.
Reconstruction of the plant was completed in December.
"We just had to work around the contractors," Landwehr added.
"Twenty-five to 30 percent of the roof caved in, [but] we were able to run 75 percent of our jobs," he said.
The rest was farmed out to fellow injection molders in Iowa, Michigan and Arkansas, sorted by product line, Landwehr said.
"We've had some good people help us," he added.
Some 13 of the 51 injection molding machines were damaged. Some had to be replaced, while others were repaired. Norland now has 48 machines, he said. He will decide whether to replace the other three depending on the amount of business the company is able to recoup.
The roof and all the side panels of the plant were replaced and approximately 30,000 square feet of steel was replaced in both facilities, Landwehr said.
As the office, warehouse and tooling building continues to be rebuilt, Norland is renting a 20,000-square-foot warehouse in nearby Wichita and the company's offices reside in temporary modular homes, he said.
"It kind of hurts not having a building there for our toolroom," Landwehr said.
Norland should be fully restored by September, he projected.
The company employs 240 who work three shifts, five days a week. It serves the automotive, computer and business machine, building and construction, consumer products and lawn and garden markets. None of the employees were laid off following the catastrophe.
Norland reported $14 million in 1998 sales.