Tec Air Inc., an injection molder of fan blades and blower wheels, is moving from the Chicago suburb of Willow Springs, Ill., 23 miles away to Munster in northwestern Indiana — and investing $7 million for new injection presses, automated assembly equipment and upgraded laboratories.
President Bob McMurtry said the company needs the larger, upgraded plant to meet increasing demand, much of it from customers moving work back to the United States from China and other developing nations. Tec Air specializes in air movement components for a wide range of products, including automotive, appliances, heating and air conditioning, agriculture, medical and outdoor power equipment.
“The exciting news is we're a 48-year-old privately held injection molder, and we're growing and expanding and we're taking this opportunity to help revitalize the U.S. economy and manufacturing sector,” McMurtry said.
He said Tec Air currently ships fan products to multinational customers in China. “But one of the reasons we're expanding is because of decisions to onshore assembly work, and we need to be in a position to support them with parts and just-in-time shipment, which you can't do from China,” he said in a telephone interview.
Tec Air is more than doubling its manufacturing space in the move, from 58,000 square feet in Willow Springs to 128,000-square-feet of space in a giant complex in Munster that used to be a mattress factory. McMurtry said Tec Air is the anchor tenant in the 900,000-square-foot building.
Ceilings up to 40 feet high are a major advantage at the new factory, so the company will have a 10-ton crane. That will allow Tec Air to get larger-tonnage machines, big enough to make radiator fans and housings for large trucks, he said.
Right now, Tec Air runs 38 injection molding machines, mostly Van Dorns, with clamping forces from 66-730 tons. The company has some two-shot Arburgs, and plans to expand in that area, where it molds damper doors with thermoplastic elastomer gaskets. The doors operate inside a car's ventilation system, opening and closing to direct air for different functions, like window defrosting and floor heating.
McMurtry said officials also will look at all-electric injection technologies.
For Indiana, the move means 150 jobs now and up to 250 by 2016. Initially, many of the employees are moving from the Chicago-area plant, but McMurtry said Tec Air will hire new employees in the first half of 2014. The expansion should be completed next spring.
The Indiana Development Corp. granted Tec air up to $2.26 million in conditional tax credits and $190,000 in training grants. Tec Air also got financial help from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority and the city of Munster.
McMurtry said the total value of the investment is $15 million for equipment and building improvements. That number includes the $7 million in new machinery purchased and about $8 million in transferred machinery, he said.
Molding fan blades, blower wheels, impellers and motorized blower assemblies requires technical expertise. The components must be perfectly balanced and durable, whether for a vacuum cleaner, leaf blower, a car or a cab for a big piece of farming equipment.
McMurtry said Tec Air hopes to retain management staff and many current factory workers. “One of the reasons we selected this location is we want to keep the key people,” he said. “A company is more than brick and mortar and machines — it's the people that do the work and have the collective knowhow.”
And McMurtry said that expertise is important, since Tec Air molds 850,000 to a million parts every week.