GOSHEN — A New Paris cabinet manufacturer that has outgrown its plant on C.R. 23 plans to relocate about three miles south and add new jobs over the next three to five years.
The Elkhart County Plan Commission held a public hearing Thursday, Aug. 8, for a zone map change that would allow Smart Cabinetry to move its operations to the northeast corner of C.R. 23 and C.R. 50 in Jackson Township. The plan commission forwarded the company’s request to the Elkhart County commissioners with a recommendation for approval.
Smart Cabinetry opened its doors in 2004 at a 120,000-square-foot facility in the northern part of New Paris. The company has grown to include 130 employees and plans to hire more people with its proposed expansion to a 200,000-square-foot campus with 12 loading docks.
“At the new location, they are anticipating over the next three to five years adding an additional 55 new jobs, and the hourly rate for those new employees will be between $26 and $30 an hour, so we’re not looking at entry level jobs,” said Terry Lang of B. Doriot and Associates. “We’re talking good manufacturing jobs at the location that we are proposing.”
Michael Harris, who owns three acres to the north, opposes the project and told the plan commission Thursday he believes the company’s relocation near his home will devalue his property and obstruct his view of the countryside.
“Our financial situation is not such that we can just pick up and move,” Harris said. “I realize this is going to create a lot of jobs for a lot of people, but again, we’re the ones that are most immediately affected and the ones who stand to lose money and not gain anything from this project, and I just don’t think that’s fair after 34 years of occupying the property.”
In addition, Harris said he is concerned about truck traffic, noise and the proper disposal of chemicals.
Terry Sauer, safety manager at Smart Cabinetry, said most of the semi trucks entering and exiting the company’s plant will access the property on C.R. 50, where the loading docks will be built. Regarding Harris’ other concerns, Sauer said the company has a dust collector that rounds up fragments from the cabinets, and all materials, including chemicals, are stored indoors. The facility is regularly tested for emissions, Sauer added.
“We try to be good neighbors,” he said.
The plan commission unanimously recommended approval of the expansion project along with extending a berm with spruce trees along the property line between Harris’ home and Smart Cabinetry’s land.