California might have a reputation for having an anti-business climate, but that's not the impression at Tote'l Industries Corp.
The plastics processor established new manufacturing sites in Mississauga, Ontario, and Chino, Calif., during 2002. The firm invested about C$1 million (US$635,000) to move, train personnel and build tools. The Chino location is the first in the United States for Tote'l.
``There were a lot of reasons we moved to California,'' Vice President Graham Gordon said in a telephone interview. The firm located adjacent to major customer Hussmann Corp., he said. ``We thought it would be a strategic idea to be next to them, and they had some space.''
Tote'l fabricates and forms sheet goods in Canada, ships disassembled items to Chino and cuts materials to size for just-in-time delivery to a Hussmann unit making food-chain refrigeration systems. Hussmann is part of Ingersoll-Rand Co. Ltd.'s climate-control sector.
Gordon found lower rent and taxes in California than in Canada.
During its site selection process, Tote'l worked with the nonprofit Inland Empire Economic Partnership in San Bernardino, Calif., and received information about possible sites, labor market contacts and relocation incentives. Two real estate firms and five public entities supplied site data, said Jon Dittmer, business development director with the Inland Empire.
Tote'l dates back to 1991, when it was based in Brampton, Ontario, and known as To Optimize the Environment Inc. The identity changed to Tote Plastics Inc. in 1996 and to the current Belize-registered holding company in March.
At first, the business rotomolded tanks for transporting hazardous chemicals. The firm has expanded into other rotational molding, vacuum forming and custom fabrication of point-of-purchase merchandise displays, mostly of acrylics. Recently, Tote'l has created proprietary utility bins, burial vaults, cemetery crypt trays, newspaper boxes and hydroponic reservoirs.
The Canadian operations employ 20 and occupy 25,000 square feet in Mississauga after a May move from Brampton.
In California, the firm employs 12 in 25,000 square feet and could lease as much as 90,000 square feet from Hussmann for production, assembly and warehousing.
In addition to acrylics, Tote'l uses high-impact polystyrene, polyester, polycarbonate and PVC.
Gordon envisions business growth in the United States. When producing only in Canada, ``we had been exporting only 10 percent'' to the United States, he said.
Tote'l had 2002 sales exceeding C$2.4 million (US$1.5 million) and projects 2003 sales approaching C$4 million (US$2.5 million).