When Jerry and Diane Slaven first saw an available 54,000-square-foot facility in Scott County, Tenn., roughly 13 miles from their main manufacturing plant in Oneida, Tenn., they knew they had found a second location that their company JDS Technologies Inc. could grow into.
"Before we even left the building we basically had a gentlemen's agreement in place to first lease [then buy] the building," said JDS Technologies President Jerry Slaven, also a co-founder of the business with his wife Diane. "The building was expandable out to 108,000 square feet, and with our growth that was extremely appealing."
JDS Technologies ended up investing $2.2 million to establish that new manufacturing operation in the town of Winfield. It is there that the company plans to create roughly 110 new jobs over the next five years, nearly 90 of those in place by the end of 2018.
JDS received a tax abatement of $82,000 that will fund part of the renovation on the building.
On March 12, the official expansion announcement included Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, signifying the importance of the company's role in the local economy. The company's growth also supports a statewide effort to address job opportunities in "distressed" counties in Tennessee.
The building JDS plans to acquire and fully refurbish previously housed an American Bag Co. facility, but had been vacant for more than a decade, according to state officials.
"After searching for a place to expand our operations, we eventually determined this new location in Scott County would best meet the needs of our company's growth," Jerry and Diane Slaven said.
The new plant was needed to house up to 15 new 350-500-ton automated compression molding machines that are required to keep churning out millions of parts each month. On any given day there may be products with upwards of 1,800 SKU numbers being manufactured on-site at JDS. In fact, all of the company's molding machines are less than five years old.
JDS Technologies designs and manufactures a comprehensive range of custom rubber and plastics-molded products, including metal stampings. Its targeted industries include the appliance, automotive, oil and gas, aerospace and medical device industries.
Currently, there are seven compression molding machines being run by 15 employees in the company's 105,000-square-foot Oneida plant. Yet to run at three shifts efficiently, JDS Technologies could use 28 workers manning the machines 24 hours a day to fill client needs. As of mid-March, JDS was planning to launch 28 new parts in the next 30 days with 18-30 different tools being used in the process.
"Our [new] presses hit the floor and we were running production within two days," said Diane Slaven, who serves as executive vice president. "Our [biggest investments] are in people and machines, and the efforts to upgrade and reinvest allows us to look for ways to add automation [into the process]."
The final pieces were being put in place at the new Winfield plant by mid-March, with "desks being installed as we speak," Diane Slaven said. Zero to little debt and limited tiers of management have allowed JDS Technologies to remain nimble, the owners said.
"We have to keep it lean to make sure that we can keep all of our employees [on staff]," said Jerry Slaven. He referenced periods when some of the company's target markets, specifically oil and gas, experienced economic struggles. Yet JDS kept its employees on board for when business improved.
"We are very vertically integrated," Diane Slaven said. "In our machine shop we make all of our own tooling. This allows us to have better control over our markets. Our goal is to keep our employees and give them opportunities to grow."
That strategy helps JDS remain competitive for significant business opportunities, such as expansions in the appliance industry for one of the company's largest clients, Whirlpool.
The new plant in Winfield, despite being just 13 miles from Oneida, opens up a range of new labor possibilities in neighboring counties and over the border in Kentucky, Diane Slaven said.