With the announcement of the purchase of the former SkyJack facility by Aluma, Ltd. last week, the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors stepped up to the plate to support the new venture in the county during its weekly meeting Oct. 2. Mike Lloyd, President of Aluma, Ltd., appeared before the board along with Maureen Elbert, Director of Palo Alto County Economic Development to update the supervisors on the purchase of the facility.
Aluma Ltd. is located in Bancroft, where they manufacture a variety of aluminum trailers; both open utility and enclosed trailers, along with other products including picnic tables. Aluma employs 135 people at its facility in Bancroft, where two shifts currently work manufacturing trailers. The company is owned by the K Corporation, headquartered in Mankato, MN.
"We made the decision to come to Emmetsburg about a month ago," Lloyd told the supervisors. "Since that time when we announced the purchase of the former SkyJack building, the people here have been really receptive and welcoming to us. We've already received 10 or 12 applications for employment here which is very satisfying."
According to Lloyd, the purchase of the building will officially close on Nov. 1.
"Once we close on Nov. 1, we forecast it will take about 60 days to clean up the facility, make some changes and bring in equipment, and then we expect to move in and start operations between January 2 and 15," Lloyd said. "We estimate employing 20 to 25 people, and we plan on building our enclosed trailer line here in Emmetsburg, as well as our small motorcycle trailer, the MK line, and we're thinking about building the picnic tables here as well. We'll probably run two shifts on the enclosed trailer line, and will move some employees from Bancroft over here to help get things started up, including some management."
According to Lloyd, Aluma underwent a doubling of its manufacturing space in 2002, and then added on again in 2006, but when the economy slowed in 2008, another thought of expansion was postponed. "In 2009 through 2012, we were blessed to be able to remain busy with a good demand for our products. We started a second shift last Fall and we could do more, but quite frankly, we've run out of space in Bancroft."
Lloyd noted that continued demand for Aluma trailers from its dealers was growing, and a major reason in driving the expansion to Emmetsburg.
"Our dealers kept calling us, 'we need more trailers or else we'll look at someone else's trailers' and we knew we didn't want that to happen," Lloyd admitted. "We looked into expansion in Bancroft, found that wasn't really feasible, and then learned about this facility in Emmetsburg and here we are. We're very excited about it."
Lloyd noted that the SkyJack building was actually much larger than what Aluma needed, but their operation would be situated more toward the eastern portion of the building, allowing for warehouse space. A total remodeling of the office space will take place to also allow for engineering and research and development spaces as well.
"Our intent is to grow into that building, Lloyd said. "Bancroft would like us to expand there, but it's a people thing, a money thing and they understand that. We estimate this entire project will cost around $1 million," Lloyd said, "and I am here today to request some property tax relief from you folks."
"So you are interested in the same type of program as we offered to Montag Manufacturing?" asked Supervisor Jerry Hofstad.
"Somewhat," Lloyd replied. "We would request an Industrial property tax exemption, beginning in 2014."
Explaining that Aluma had purchased the building for $522,500, Lloyd noted the company would create 20 to 25 new jobs over the next three years and would be in production in 2013.
The exemption program, as proposed, would call for an exemption of 75 percent in 2014, a 60 percent exemption in 2015, an exemption of 45 percent in 2016, a 30 percent exemption in 2017 and an exemption of 15 percent in 2018, with no exemption in 2019.
"I would move to offer the industrial property tax exemptions as proposed to Aluma Ltd," stated Hofstad. Supervisor Ed Noonan quickly offered a second, and on a roll call vote, all five supervisors voted to grant the exemption.
"We thank you for your hard work on this," Board Chair Keith Wirtz told Elbert following the vote.
"This will secure both locations for us," Lloyd said. "It makes Bancroft more secure, and with the support of the incentives from the Gaming Commission and the city, locating in Emmetsburg will also give us the ability to draw from a new workforce pool."
"All the parties involved along the way in this effort were very eager and welcoming to Aluma," Maureen Elbert said. "I'm very honored that everyone has been so welcoming and eager to work with Mike. He has said that as well and that reflects very well on all of Palo Alto County."
"This has been very easy," Lloyd agreed. "It was tough to decide to branch out, but the county and the people here have been very welcoming to us and we will try to be good citizens and neighbors in return."
"This is something that is going to be good for the whole county," Hofstad agreed as the discussion concluded.