World Class Industries employees sit for a photo during the Nov. 7 open house and dedication for WCI’s new $8 million assembly facility in Hiawatha. The opening of the facility expanded the company’s Hiawatha work force to about 80. PHOTO DAVE DEWITTE
By Dave DeWitte
With a quick swipe on the touchscreen of a programmable logic controller, World Class Industries celebrated its latest expansion in the Corridor on Nov. 7.
The new $8 million facility that opened in June at 1535 Stamy Road in Hiawatha provides about 50,000 square feet of space for manufacturing, innovation and customer interaction.
During the open house and dedication for the facility, WCI CEO Brent Cobb said the growing company is proud of the capabilities provided by the new facility for flexible production of sub-assemblies for off-road equipment manufacturers.
The sub-assemblies, such as pipe assemblies that carry fuel lines and electrical wiring around the cabs of a John Deere tractor, are loaded onto racks that can be wheeled right onto the production floor of the Deere factory in Waterloo, just when they are needed for production.
Customers such as Deere and CNH Industrial rely on WCI not only to meet their quality standards and deliver in time, but to negotiate supply and delivery terms with parts suppliers.
“We like to say, ‘we simplify supply chains,’” Chairman Pat Cobb, Brent’s father, said.
Besides producing sub-assemblies, the new Hiawatha facility is used by WCI to arrange production work cells and “get the kinks out” before deploying them to remote locations.
The newest customer to be supplied by WCI is Bobcat, which manufactures its ToolCat utility work machine in Gwinner, North Dakota. When the plant ran into capacity constraints, WCI took over manufacturing of several sub-assemblies, including the transaxle, rear frame and a radiator assembly last November. By January, Bobcat production was running at capacity, WCI Site Manager Zach Walters said.
The new facility employs more than two dozen, bringing WCI’s employment in Hiawatha to about 80, and company-wide employment to about 200 across eight locations. WCI continues to grow, with annual sales of approximately $260 million.
Mr. Cobb thanked the city of Hiawatha for its support through the years, pointing out that the city has received a good return on its investment. When it started out in 1994, WCI had a small rented space and less than 10 employees. At that time, the city provided $75,000 in tax increment financing to help the company build its own facility.
Hiawatha most recently granted WCI a five-year, 75 percent tax incentive on the new facility. The project was also awarded some $400,000 in tax credits and refunds by the state. Today, WCI pays about $200,000 in property taxes at its two locations, and about $700,000 in payroll taxes.
Because it’s a just-in-time supplier, WCI must locate most of its facility near the final assembly plants that build finished goods from its sub-assemblies. With the facility’s opening, the company has turned its attention to remodeling its 36,000-square-foot Hiawatha operation on the other side of I-380 at 925 N. 15th St., where it has space constraints.
“We plan to build this business in other locations, but we will keep our headquarters here in Hiawatha,” Pat Cobb said.
There was no cloud of glitter or confetti when Mr. Cobb swiped the touchscreen on a new automated assembly station to mark the dedication. Instead it precisely and quietly torqued a heavy nut onto a large bolt – generating less fanfare, but leaving no mess in the spotless facility. CBJ