Illinois-based Custom Coating Innovations Inc. is moving its electrical cover manufacturing operation from Lebanon to a former newspaper distribution plant in Belleville to increase production space for utility equipment in high demand because of wildfires, wildlife and wild weather.
The dip molder has 14 employees producing tab, cut-out and utility covers from a self-extinguishing proprietary plastisol material called ZEROflame. The covers, which also resist wind, protect the components of power lines, telecommunication lines and aviation equipment from fires, hurricanes, birds, squirrels, insect infestations and other problems.
Demand for CCI products is up from utility companies in California and other states where wildfires have burned out of control. High winds from hurricanes and tropic storms are leading to increased orders from Florida and Texas, according to CCI Operations Manager John Sova.
"Wind tunnel testing shows our covers withstand at least a Category 4 hurricane, speed wise. We sell a lot to the Southeast," Sova said. "That's why our location is a perfect fit. We're in the center of the U.S."
CCI isn't moving far from the 15,000-square-foot facility in Lebanon that has been its base for 10 years. The company bought property about 12 miles away that originally housed the printing operation for the Belleville News-Democrat. The new site has more than double the space and it sits on 3 acres with room to grow if needed.
CCI paid about $680,000 for the property and will invest more into the factory and headquarters, BND says.
"The ultimate goal is to turn this into a 24-hour, five-day-a-week operation," Sova said, adding the company would be looking at tripling its workforce in that case.
CCI products improve grid reliability by preventing arc flashes and reducing fire risks as well as moisture, corrosion, insect habitats and bird "poop trails," the latter of which can cause flashovers, the company website says.
An early CCI innovation was the addition of a fluorescent orange color cover option for utility poles to keep helicopters from hitting them.
"They go up the mountainside with those poles," Sova said. "They're now sending drones up to do the remote reconnaissance and make sure everything is all right."
To support the new manufacturing plant, the Belleville City Council agreed to provide CCI $75,000 in tax breaks if the company invests $1.5 million into the complex purchase and remodeling by May 1, 2022, and also retains the 14 current employees and adds at least two full-time positions during its first year of operation and two more during its second year.
CCI officials expect to complete the move to Belleville by the end of the year. The company plans to install a machine shop and has set a goal of producing dip-molded samples within two weeks of a customer request for custom covers.