Babies resting place still cared for

Published 7:49 pm Friday, August 10, 2007

By By MARCIA STEFFENS / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS – No one minded the heat.
The fact that ground was breaking in the Cassopolis Freedom Way Municipal Commerce Park cooled off the owners, dignitaries and others attending Wednesday morning's ceremony.
The new 12,500 square foot building of Schwintek, Inc. will bring owner Mike Schwindaman out of the 2,000 square foot pole barn by his home in Cassopolis, he and his friend, co-worker and co-owner, Mike Howard put up 10 years ago.
Michelle Andrews, village president of the Village of Cassopolis, welcomed the industrial park's "first business owners."
State Rep. Rick Shaffer was given permission to be late for the session of the House, he said, "if it was for economic development."
"The family project is the first of what we're hoping is many more businesses," Shaffer added.
Chris Siebenmark spoke for State Sen. Ron Jelinek.
"This is the seed – good stuff for the people not only of Cassopolis, but other communities. This is how business and government get it done," he said.
"Hopefully it will lead to other development. Get the first one – then the message is it is a good bet," he added.
Harvey Kemp of Kemp Construction, Inc. out of Nappanee, Ind. said he has been eager to begin. He also attended the ground breaking Wednesday morning.
"This is what we need. It's good to see the industrial park opening up. It is an impetus for other companies and great for this village," said architect Tony Lenininger of Carmi Designs in Edwardsburg.
Mickey Bittner of Wightman Jones, Inc., engineering, said the project came about as "teamwork between the village, Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and the state local representatives.
"They pulled together. When jobs are leaving the state, this is pulling together. Schwintek really has a niche and is a catalyst for the industrial park," Bittner added.
"It took a small company to prime the pump," said Tom Tarleton, business development manager for MEDC.
"We are going to get this thing started. This is a great location. We've got a big park to fill up. We are not done yet," he added.
There are 48 acres available. Back in May, the village received a $210,000 grant for public infrastructure improvement.
The grant allowed for installing an additional 800 feet of roadway and sanitary sewer system to serve Schwintek's expansion.
The village contributed $90,000 toward the project in the form of the three acres of land designated for the project.
Schwindaman said he was "humbled" by all of those attending.
"Every person here contributed. I can't thank you all enough," he said, adding his employees were "the greatest guys. That's what Cassopolis has to offer as well."
"One thing you can't export is innovation," Schwindaman said.
Presently along with the two Mikes, there are a half a dozen workers. Plans are to increase that number to at least 15 during the first of what they hope are more expansions.
"Change the landscape" and hopefully, there will be a "domino effect," Schwindaman added.
"We manufacture hydraulic automation products," Schwindaman explained, for the RV industry, for slide out rooms and also other industries including automotive and aviation.
What is putting the name Cassopolis in the international trade is an invention the two have gotten patented – a power arm system for watercraft which raises and lowers a sun shade, called a bimini, with the touch of a button.
The device, called PWR ARM was introduced in November and has "gone gang busters – out of our garage," Schwindaman said.
They have 30 new major customers, he said, adding the arms are being shipped across the world. He has been attending boat shows in this country demonstrating the arm.
"We have had great success stories. A disabled man in Chicago, who had a lung transplant, said sun was his enemy," Schwindaman recalled.
He saw the demonstration at the Chicago boat show and now can go out on his pontoon without having to wait for his wife or neighbor to help with the sun shade.
"'You have no idea how much your invention helped,' he said."
Schwindaman is an engineer by background, and also did hydraulic sales. He formerly worked for National Copper Products and Auto-Cam in Dowagiac.
He and his wife Michele have a daughter, Payton, 5 and son, Cameron, 3. They came to Cassopolis 15 years ago, quitting his other job three and a half years ago to work at his own business full time.
Howard is a tool and die machinist and lives in Elkhart, Ind. with his wife Jennifer. They have two children, Drake, 6 and Kyah, 8.
He joined his partner full time one and a half years ago.