Mass transit seat manufacturer hopes to take root in Elkhart
Posted: 07/02/2012 at 9:42 pm
By: Dan Spalding
Kiel North America LLC, based in Germany, is considered one of the top two manufacturers of mass transit seats in much of Europe and has been eyeing Elkhart for several years, said Mark Walter, director of finance for the company.
On Monday, the Elkhart City Council took the first step toward approving a request by Kiel for a tax abatement for a manufacturing facility at 4519 Wyland Drive in Elkhart.
Kiel, pronounced keel, has already lined up incentives from the state of Indiana and approval of the abatement by the city council would be the final hurdle in the company’s decision to establish its North American headquarters in Elkhart, Walter said.
Kiel tentatively plans to invest $3.8 million in manufacturing equipment. The company plans to hire 62 employees over the next three years, Walter said.
Installation of new equipment could begin within a few months. Manufacturing will be phased in and could begin soon afterward, Walter said.
Kiel began leasing the local property in 2009 and has been using it for distribution purposes, he said.
The company has already made a dent in the North American market. Seats made by Kiel are used by the Chicago Transit Authority as well as buses in Hartford, Conn., and a few cities in Canada, Walter said.
Kiel has had a presence in parts of Europe for more than 60 years, he said.
Walter said the company looked at other locations for its North American headquarters and considered sites in Winnipeg, Canada and Minnesota.
Elkhart’s central location, the proximity to Interstate 80-90 and the convenience of working with nearby companies tied to the recreational vehicle industry were key factors in Kiel’s decision to choose Elkhart, Walter said.
Barkley Garrett, director of economic development, said Kiel is a good fit for the area and believes the company is already beginning to establish relationships with local industry.
“It’s right in our wheel house,” Garrett said.
Kiel is one of two abatement requests the city council was working through on Monday.
The council approved the first step of the process for Kiel by establishing an economic revitalization area and also approved the final step in granting tax abatement to KIK Custom Products, which is in the midst of an expansion that will result in 68 new jobs.
Votes supporting tax abatement requests for both companies were unanimous.
A final approval for Kiel could happen within weeks and appears to be all but assured.
Kiel was also granted up to $300,000 in conditional tax credits and up to $150,000 in training grants, according to a news release issued by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.
Mayor Dick Moore said the city is excited about Kiel’s investment in the community.
“Companies around the globe are recognizing that Elkhart has a unique combination of location, workforce and cost of doing business that makes our community second to none,” Moore said. “We couldn’t be more pleased.”