Rep. Walberg visits Niles manufacturers

Published 6:03 pm Thursday, January 19, 2023

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NILES — Niles was host to a special visitor Thursday.

5th District Congressman Tim Walberg visited and toured a pair of manufacturing facilities Thursday morning in Modineer Co., 2190 Industrial Dr., Niles, and Pratt Intermodal Chassis, 2070 S. 3rd St., Niles.

Walberg is currently serving his eighth term in Congress as the representative of southern Michigan. Michigan’s 5th District encompasses Branch, Cass, Hillsdale, Jackson, Lenawee, Monroe and St. Joseph Counties, along with portions of Berrien, Calhoun, and Kalamazoo Counties. 

Walberg enjoyed visiting Niles and learning more about the positive impact manufacturing is making locally, nationally and worldwide.

“This is exactly what we want to see,” Walberg said. “We want to get into the community and see where the people work, where they live and what makes Niles unique – in this case we found (Niles) to be unique in the country.”
Modineer is a leading manufacturer and fabricator of low to medium volume complex metal components and assemblies for the automotive, military, truck/trailer and industrial markets utilizing stamping, roll forming, welding, machining, painting, e-coating, and other specialty processes. Headquartered in Niles, Modineer manufactures more than 35 million components per year, has over 800 employees and operates from nine facilities with combined square footage in excess of 700,000 across Michigan, Indiana, and Missouri.

Pratt Industries Intermodal Chassis was established in 1976 as a father and son business in Chicago, Illinois. In December 2021, the North American Chassis Pool Cooperative acquired Pratt Industries Intermodal Chassis, which is now Pratt Intermodal Chassis, LLC.
“Our focus is strictly on the intermodal chassis market, whereas Pratt Industries did a lot more custom trailers and that kind of thing,” said Pratt Intermodal Chassis President Bryan Van Itallie. “It made sense to split the two; We can be more of a full-fledged manufacturing site here, as opposed to a custom shop.”
The company currently has a worldwide reputation for high-quality equipment and its chassis can be found in every major fleet in the United States. 

“The things that they produce here at Pratt, the quality that goes into it and then the interrelated steel mills producing the steel bring it here, we saw a new robot that will make things even more well put together, reduce costs, reduce time on tasks,” Walberg said. “We got to meet the employees here and see their passion for the work they do.” 

Van Itallie guided Walberg through the warehouse, where he was able to see how the chassis are manufactured and meet the employees that build them. Business has been booming at Pratt Intermodal Chassis. According to Van Itallie, the manufacturer is sold out at maximum production through the end of 2024.

“We have no no extra capacity and our customers have said if there’s more capacity, just let us know. We’ve ramped up more than double production in the last year, we’ve hired almost 100 hundred people in the last year, so we went to two full shifts. We have a day shift in a night shift trying to keep up with the demand but it’s been an exciting journey in a lot of ways.”

While the manufacturer has been in the community for almost 50 years, Van Itallie said that the energy surrounding Pratt Intermodal Chassis feels like that of a startup company. According to Van Itallie, Pratt’s flexible hours have led to an increase in employment – approximately 240 in total – especially among younger workers.

“We have all the infrastructure, we’ve got the equipment, we’ve got customers and suppliers but it’s kind of a startup in the midst of all of that,” he said. “It’s a neat environment for sure.”

Walberg enjoyed visiting Niles, touring the facilities and meeting with employees and said he would like to visit again in the future.

“As a member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, as well as the Energy and Commerce Committee, the whole idea of training our future generation and present generation for the jobs that are necessities right now, to see the type of intermodal system we have in this country to deal with the deliveries – from the ports, from the railyards, from the factories into other places where these products we put together – it’s important to see how it’s made,” Walberg said. “This is probably the most interesting part of my job as a representative, to see what makes their lives tick in the community.”