GOSHEN — An Elkhart-based recreational vehicle supplier is breathing new life into the Goshen facility vacated last year by Cequent Performance Products.
Lippert Components Inc. is consolidating its "interiors" division, which makes mattresses and furniture for the RV industry, into the 366,000-square-foot building at 2600 College Ave. that Cequent vacated last year when the company moved local operations to Mexico, said Jarod Lippert, Lippert's marketing and media manager.
The new building will be known as "Plant 50." Furniture and mattress production will be moved from two of Lippert's existing Goshen facilities: Plant 50, 3325 Hackberry Drive, and Plant 54, 2475 E. Kercher Drive.
"Our interiors division hit $100 million in sales last year, so it's an incredibly fast-growing division of ours," Lippert said. "We'll have everything under one roof for the first time. We can set things up the way we need to set things up."
The move will not affect the size of Lippert's workforce. The mattress line now shares Plant 54 with Lippert's steel fabrication division, so moving out mattress production will create room for future steel fabrication expansion, should the company decide that's needed later, Lippert said
"It's improving efficiency, helping improve quality, having everything under one roof, introducing more automation and lean production," he said. "It should help the bottom line. That's the goal."
Since LCI is owned by Drew Industries, a publicly traded company, Lippert stressed that his reference to efficiency improvements ultimately helping the company's profits is a "forward-thinking statement."
Lippert declined to say how much it's spending to renovate the former Cequent building, or how many people will work in the interiors division. The company has sandblasted the floors, which were very dirty from Cequent's heavy welding and steel operation, and repainted about one-fifth of the plant.
"We're making a considerable investment into the building to bring it up to a world-class furniture operation. It will be a showcase building when we're done. It will be a beautiful plant in about 60 days."
Mark Brinson, community development director for the city of Goshen, praised Lippert for continuing to expand into existing buildings.
“A lot of times what you see is companies wanting to build anew because they want a facility that was designed for their use,” Brinson said. “Lippert has shown they know how to get creative and make existing buildings function for their business.”
“We’ve been fortunate in Goshen to have good, solid demand for buildings, but this was one of our concerns because it’s very large. There are not many companies big enough to come in and quickly make use of buildings that size.”
Cequent's decision to move the trailer hitch maker's 450 Goshen jobs to Mexico didn't go down easily with its labor union, the United Steel Workers International, which tried unsuccessfully to block the move in federal court.