The owners of an Illinois mold-making shop have taken a different global view of international expansions and are investing in a tooling operation in Costa Rica.
The new International Precision Molds in San Jose will not be a direct subsidiary of Comet Die and Engraving Co., but the Elmhurst, Ill., operation will coordinate production, design and delivery for the Central American company once it launches in August.
Brothers T.J. and Mike Donlin, partners in the fourth-generation Comet, are also among the investors in IPM. The partners began moving new state-of-the-art mold-making equipment into the 20,000-square-foot IPM site and plan to launch production with 25 employees.
The move south is a way to provide manufacturing in a low-cost country without the time lag, logistics problems or expense of moving into China, Mike Donlin said in a June 5 telephone interview.
Costa Rica has a small but established plastics industry and a pool of experienced toolmakers. It is in the same time zone as Comet and is only a five-hour flight from Elmhurst. Even by sea, the company could have delivery of a new tool within one week.
``It's a great place for us to go,'' Donlin said. ``There are a lot of perks to going there.''
Costa Rica has a stable government, good infrastructure and high education standards - especially compared with some other low-wage countries, Donlin noted.
The new equipment will represent a step up in technology for IPM's Costa Rican employees, who are more accustomed to the custom manufacturing production levels seen in the U.S. a decade ago, he said. IPM will bring the staff to Comet for training on the high-speed, automated equipment that is going into San Jose.
``They're craftsman, but they've been building molds without the good equipment we've had available here,'' he said.
Comet has 65 employees, producing injection molding tools for a variety of industries, along with gun drilling, finishing and texturizing.