- Matt Sanctis Staff Writer
An expansion at an Urbana manufacturing firm will allow the company to boost sales, add more than 20 new jobs and boost its payroll by more than $800,000.
Weidmann Electrical Technology Inc. will move ahead with an expansion that will add about 2,600 square feet to its facility at 700 W. Court St. in Urbana. The company is also boosting its payroll and spending at least $500,000 in new equipment as part of an expansion valued at around $2.7 million, said Marcia Bailey, economic development coordinator for the Champaign Economic Partnership.
Weidmann, a Swiss-based company, produces specialty insulation for transformers. The expansion is expected to be complete by March next year. The company currently has about 140 workers.
“We’re looking at increasing our capacity within the facility,” said Mark Hunter, plant controller at Weidmann. “Since we opened our doors in 2011, we’ve gone from initially 75 employees and we’re expected to be around 164. We’ve just grown so much in terms of our business and because of that to be able to maintain increased sales, we needed to add more space onto our facility.”
Documents filed with local government entities show the company will add 20 workers as part of the expansion, but the manufacturer hired four additional workers just before making the announcement, for a total of 24 workers, Hunter said. The new jobs will include a variety of position, from forklift operators to maintenance technicians, as well as line workers and a safety coordinator.
The company will add a roughly $500,000 piece of equipment used to cut the paper produced at the company, in addition to the expansion and new jobs, Hunter said.
The company’s current payroll is a little more than $9 million and it will add about $835,000 as part of the expansion, Bailey said.
Local school districts and the city of Urbana approved a Community Reinvestment Area agreement that will provide a 100-percent property tax abatement for 15 years for the addition to the facility, Bailey said. The company will continue to pay its full share of taxes on its existing payroll and property, but will receive an abatement for the expansion.
The city and Urbana school district will split income taxes from the additional payroll evenly, she said.
OhioMeansJobs Champaign County will also work with the company to provide training for the existing employees who need additional training to operate the new equipment, Bailey said.
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The company’s growth has been a bright spot in Champaign County’s economy, Bailey said. Weidmann initially took a leap of faith and pledged to provide jobs for 75 workers when the business moved into the former Neenah Paper Inc. site on West Court Street.
Neenah had closed a paper mill at the site in 2007, leaving about 180 workers without jobs. The property was a brownfield site, she said, and Weidmann’s decision to invest in the property reopened a site that could have become an eyesore.
“They’ve doubled the expectation from when they first came,” Bailey said of the company’s growth since it opened in Urbana. “They’ve kept the integrity of the historic building and they’ve been a great asset in the neighborhood as well.”
Along with the Weidmann announcement, the city also reached an agreement with a local developer this month to clean up the former Q3 and Johnson Manufacturing site that’s been vacant since 2008. True Inspection Services, an Urbana-based developer, will clean up and redevelop the 20-acre site at Miami and Beech streets.
City leaders have said the redevelopment of that property is expected to take two years and may begin as soon as next month.