Upfront: New year brings new hope

By Steve Noe

With the start of a new year, I wanted to kick off 2012 by sharing some encouraging news as two outdoor power equipment industry companies recently announced plans to invest a total of slightly more than $12.5 million to expand their respective companies and create approximately 150 jobs.

For starters, Stihl Inc. announced Dec. 13 that it will invest $10.3 million to expand its U.S. headquarters in Virginia Beach, Va., which will lead to 52 new jobs. Three days later, Stens announced that it will invest $2.28 million to expand its headquarters in Jasper, Ind., creating up to 98 new jobs by 2015.

Stihl Inc. established its U.S. headquarters in Virginia Beach more than 30 years ago with less than 50 employees in a 20,000-square-foot warehouse. Since then, Stihl has grown into more than one million square feet of manufacturing and administration space on 89 acres with more than 2,000 employees nationwide. The latest expansion, scheduled for completion in spring 2012, will add 53,256 square feet of additional high-performance manufacturing capacity to an existing building. Stihl’s capital investment includes $4.6 million in new machinery and tools to accommodate growth in the blow-molding operation. The expansion will double the company’s blow-molding capabilities, enabling Stihl to manufacture additional blow-molded components on site, expand its line-winding operations for trimmers, and relocate welding operations.

“Our Virginia Beach workforce has proven its ability to meet the demands of our customers, both here and overseas,” said Peter Mueller, executive vice president for Stihl Inc. “Because of the manufacturing-friendly environment in Virginia Beach, we are able to compete domestically and globally, ultimately, allowing us to continue to expand our operations here.”

The Virginia Beach Development Authority awarded Stihl Inc. an Economic Development Investment Program grant in the amount of $100,000 based on the capital investment and number of full-time jobs created.

“Stihl’s continued growth and success in the city is very impressive,” said Warren D. Harris, director of the Virginia Beach Department of Economic Development. “It is one of the largest manufacturing employers in the region, and we are extremely pleased that this expansion will bring new high-paying jobs for our citizens.”

Stens, an international supplier of replacement parts for the outdoor power equipment, landscape, rental, golf and construction industries, will purchase, renovate, and equip a 208,400-square-foot building located on Jasper’s south side. Renovations on the facility, which will house the company’s headquarters and distribution center, will begin in January 2012. Operations will transfer to the new site in August 2012 when facility upgrades are expected to be completed.

“Stens continues to expand our global market share with highly skilled associates and a leveraged infrastructure to grow in a very competitive global marketplace,” said Peter Ariens, president of Stens, a division of Ariens Company. “We believe the state of Indiana is investing wisely in a strong business environment. Stens has thrived in Indiana over the past 40 years, and we want to continue to be a part of that local, regional and state momentum.”

Stens was established in 1970 out of a one-room garage in Jasper as a seller and repairer of outdoor power equipment. The company has since expanded to more than 300 associates globally with distribution centers in six states and five countries. With 50,000 customers worldwide, the company exports goods to more than 50 countries, including Australia, Brazil, New Zealand and Ireland. Stens, which currently has 180 employees in Indiana, will begin hiring new headquarter and distribution associates in Jasper within three months of the Dec. 16 announcement.

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation offered Stens up to $750,000 in conditional tax credits based on the company’s job creation plans. These tax credits are performance based, meaning until Hoosiers are hired, the company is not eligible to claim incentives. The city of Jasper has approved additional tax abatement at the request of the Dubois County Area Development Corporation.

“I am delighted that Stens is staying in Jasper and that they are growing,” said Jasper Mayor Bill Schmitt. “I think that the excellent workforce in southwest Indiana helped play a large part in the company’s decision to expand here. I would encourage other businesses looking to expand or to relocate to consider Jasper and Dubois County.”

Here’s hoping these positive developments signal good things to come in 2012!

OPE Editor Steve Noe


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