About 200 new jobs in Niles

Published 11:28 pm Thursday, December 11, 2003

By By JAN GRIFFEY / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- The positive economic trends taking shape around the country are thankfully being echoed here in Niles, too.
Several Niles area manufacturers are planning or have begun expansions or improvements at plants here that will result in more opportunity for jobs for Niles area workers.
100 new jobs
at Pilkington Niles
Pilkington Corp. expects the addition of a new product line and an expanded customer base to double the sales volume at its Niles facility, located at 2121 W. Chicago Road.
That means as many as 100 new jobs -- in addition to the 230 full-time workers the plant employs here now.
At least 10 percent of those new hires will include production and quality engineers, said Douglas Wait, Pilkington Niles plant manager, in a press release.
The expansion will also mean the plant here will need another 52,000 square feet of leased space.
Wait said the expansion project could cost as much as $10 million, but predicted the investment would boost sales to $90 million by the end of 2004, eclipsing the current $40 million average.
Those companies join General Motors, Isuzu Motors Inc. and Honda Motor Company, for whom workers at the Pilkington Niles' plant currently manufacture glass window products.
He also said the company picked up additional business from several sunroof manufacturers when it began manufacturing PVC encapsulated sunroof panels in early 2002.
The Pilkington Corp., a British Co., is one of the world's largest manufacturers of glass and glazing productss with worldwide operations, including the Niles facility, which opened in 1996.
State-of-the-art equipment -- and new jobs -- at Niles Precision
Next time you take to the friendly skies, know that your life is in the hands of the skilled workers of Niles Precision.
Skalla is chairman of the 53-year-old Niles Precision Co. He's been with the company for 52 of those years. His son, Jay Skalla, is president and chief executive officer.
Earlier this fall, Niles Township officials granted a $1.627 million tax abatement for Niles Precision, which allowed the company to modernize some of its equipment and take its cell manufacturing process a step further.
Niles Precision builds "close-tolerance" parts and assemblies for fuel-control and flight-control systems for jet aircraft.
Niles Precision employs 155 workers today. That's up from 139 just prior to this fall's tax abatement and expansion.
Skalla said his company stays competitive because of its skilled workers and because it has learned to react quickly to meet customers' needs.
For example, Niles Precision employees are working with a customer who is building a new military fighter plane, Skalla said.
To insure it has the highly-skilled workers it needs, Niles Precision works closely with Lake Michigan College and offers an 8,000 hour, four-year apprenticeship program that leads to a college degree -- of which all expenses paid by Niles Precision.
New product line and 13 new jobs
at Michiana Box and Crate/
Lake States Wholesale Lumber
Gary Cehovic, president of Michiana Box and Crate and Lake State Wholesale Lumber, plans to expand into a new wood products line that will mean 13 new jobs.
The expansion, which will be located in additional, rented space in a newly-constructed building, will require the company to hire a supervisor, a salesperson, about 10 production workers and perhaps another truck driver.
Cehovic attributes his company's success to the new product line and the overall improving economy.
Michiana Box and Crate and Lake States Wholesale Lumber employs about 120 people at present.
New manufacturing line
and up to 50 new jobs at Modineer
Modineer, a Niles company that makes metal parts for the automotive industry, has been working for about two years "tooling up" for a new manufacturing line to supply metal parts that will eventually be used on a new Ford vehicle, said Mike Dreher, Modineer president.
Dreher said the press line should arrive at Modineer this summer and that manufacturing of metal seat pans should begin this summer.
Dreher said the new line could add 30 to 50 new jobs for workers in the Niles area.
He said his company has had the order to manufacture the new parts for about two years.
Expansion of jobs and manufacturing lines is nothing new for Modineer. During the summer of 2000, the company moved into the former Sheller-Globe plant on South Third Street and have since added about 100 jobs.
At present, Modineer employs a little more than 300 workers.