Gator Cases Inc. is investing about $350,000 to buy a second rotational molding machine and downstream equipment, doubling production of protective cases for musical instruments and electronic equipment in Grabill, Ind., near Fort Wayne.
The new machine — a Rotoline with a 10-foot swing — is scheduled to begin production in November, according to Neal Graham, general manager of Gator Cases' XL Division.
Graham said the company has one other machine, a Rotoline with an 8-foot swing. The new machine will allow Gator to bring back some molding work for larger-sized cases, which it had been outsourcing to other rotomolders, he said.
“We've seen double- and triple-digit growth the past two years. Through diversification, we felt [the capital investment] was needed to be able to keep up with demand that we're generating,” he said.
Gator Cases, which currently employs 23 in Grabill, will double that number by creating up to 25 new jobs by 2014, the company said in a news release announcing the expansion. Hiring has already begun.
Gator Cases, based in Tampa, Fla., was founded in 2000 by the father-daughter team of Jerry Freed and Crystal Morris. At first, Gator made its products at a plant in China. Then, in 2008, it purchased Indiana rotomolder XL Specialty Percussion Inc. to create a U.S. manufacturing base.
Graham had founded XL, which pioneered rotomolded cases for drums and other percussion instruments.
“Originally our primary area was drum cases. We've expanded into various music cases and the electronic cases,” Graham said. “We're doing things outside of the music industry now.”
The company continues to produce a variety of soft-sided bags and cases in China, he said.
Gator Cases sells its cases to music, audio and visual markets in more than 65 countries.
Jeff Settano, Gator Cases' vice president of global operations, said the new equipment comes as the Grabill plant has implemented lean manufacturing principles.
“This investment in a new rotational molding machine and downstream manufacturing support equipment will greatly increase our capacity and capabilities to produce larger products,” he said.
The Rotoline shuttle machines are made in Brazil by Rotoline Industrial Equipment Ltda., an affiliate of Reduction Engineering Inc. of Kent, Ohio.
The Indiana Economic Development Corp. is providing Gator with up to $100,000 in tax credits, based on the company's job creation plans.
The Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance has asked the town of Grabill to consider additional property tax abatement.