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Company once on verge of leaving area now looking to add jobs

Business uses local bank to finance acquisition of new land for expansion.

A local company on the verge of closing a few years ago is now poised to move into a new building and could eventually expand after its parent company purchased property earlier this month.

Thermwell Products Co., based in New Jersey, purchased a 20-acre property in the 1000 block of Edgewood Avenue earlier this month for approximately $750,000, according to information from the Champaign County Auditor’s Office.

Eventually, the site will serve as the new home for W.B. Marvin Manufacturing, a decades-old Urbana company it owns that specializes in producing window screens. The jobs could have been shipped overseas just a few years ago, but company officials said Thermwell’s investment, made with a local bank, shows they are serious about keeping work in Urbana for the long-term.

When Thermwell purchased the company in 2007, W.B. Marvin was considering liquidation and was down to two employees, said Barney White, an adviser for Thermwell and a former director for W.B. Marvin. Soon after Thermwell stepped in, the company increased to 30 employees, and now the new investment will make it possible to expand.

“This year we will go over one million screens,” White said.

For Thermwell, it was important to keep a product on the shelves that is made in the U.S., said Mel Gerstein, president of Thermwell.

“I think it’s a major made in U.S.A. statement,” Gerstein said.

The property includes a 50,000 square foot facility now being used as training and storage space for Rittal, as well as two smaller structures used for storage. Rittal is leasing and will hopefully continue to do so for several years to come, White said.

If Rittal eventually decides to leave the space, it will likely be the new home for W.B. Marvin employees, who currently produce the screens in a small building on Glenn Avenue. If not, White said there is plenty of land to build an additional structure for W.B. Marvin employees while Rittal continues to rent its current space.

In the meantime, Thermwell plans to build a 20,000 square foot shipping and receiving space that will connect the two smaller structures on the property. That work could begin as early as this spring.

Now, W.B. Marvin products are shipped to New Jersey, then distributed to customers. But White said Thermwell is considering distributing some products directly from Urbana.

White said he has been looking for this type of opportunity for the last few years. It was once possible the jobs could have been outsourced to China, but Thermwell’s commitment means they will likely stay in Urbana instead.

“My goal was to keep those jobs in Urbana,” White said.

Thermwell is also financing the purchase through Champaign Bank in Urbana, as opposed to a bank in New Jersey, Gerstein said.

The moves show the company is committed to making sure the WB Marvin Company stays in Urbana for a long time to come, said Marcia Bailey, economic development coordinator for Urbana.

The W.B. Marvin name has a reputation dating as far back as 1939, White said, giving Thermwell a respected name brand to add to its line of products. In return, because it only produces a single product, W.B. Marvin likely could not have survived without Thermwell’s assistance.

“Our goal is to invest more and add more people,” he said.

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