FOSTORIA, Ohio-Roppe Corp. has launched a $4.6 million expansion and renovation project to significantly boost production and lay the groundwork to add additional business.
Included in the project will be an approximately 9,000-sq.-ft. addition to the firm's rubber product factory that currently spans about 200,000 square feet, the purchase of more machinery and hiring an estimated 30 workers, according to President and CEO Don Miller.
The manufacturer of rubber wall base flooring, floor tile, base and other rubber products' expansion likely will increase production by about a third.
New workers probably won't be brought on board until next spring, he said. The company currently has a work force of about 300 at the Fostoria site, which primarily makes Roppe's rubber offerings. The firm also has a wood products factory in the city that employs 90.
'The right time'
Roppe is adding the new section to the north side of the rubber product facility in Fostoria. Once complete, Miller said, a press room will occupy that space and the firm's finishing department will be moved closer to the loading docks, providing the company with better product flow.
Included in the machinery purchases are two new rubber tile presses and a nine-foot stair tread press. Two of the acquired machines recently arrived at the facility, Miller said, and the third should be there soon. In addition, Roppe has purchased auxiliary equipment to support the machines.
"We're getting excellent deals on the equipment because of the poor economy," he said. "So that certainly helps us in that area."
Roppe, founded in 1955, is expanding now because "it's the right time to do it," Miller said, pointing out that upgrading after the economy has turned around can leave a company behind in the chase for new business. In addition, he said, the move ensures the company's present customers are serviced properly.
In the last year, the firm did not bid on some jobs "because we thought they would tie up our presses," Miller said. "We're currently running three shifts and the newer presses will help us" meet current and future demand. "I think this gives us the room for equipment we desperately need. We've gotten a lot of new customers in the last two years and we need the capacity."
To help with the expansion, the Ohio Department of Development provided the firm with a $1.3 million loan. In addition, the department's controlling board gave Fostoria-based Roppe a $25,000 Rapid Outreach Grant to buy new molds, a mixing room blender, a dust collector and line automation equipment.
Roppe will fund the balance of the equipment costs.
In making the announcement of the development department award, State Sen. Karen Gillmor (R-Tiffin, Ohio) said Roppe is "one of the last family-owned manufacturing companies in Fostoria (and) continues to invest in the latest technologies and innovations that allow it to meet the changing needs of the industry and its clients." That, she said, "has led to tremendous growth in recent years."
She said under Miller's leadership, Roppe has proved to be "a leading corporate citizen in Fostoria." The jobs the expansion project will ultimately create "will be welcomed in Seneca County, which currently has a 12-percent unemployment rate," Gillmor said.
The company primarily makes rubber products at the Fostoria plant. In addition, the firm owns a factory in Opa Locka, Fla., that turns out vinyl goods; Flexco Inc. in Tuscumbia, Ala., which produces vinyl and rubber flooring and some industrial products; and two warehouses that span more than 90,000 square feet each.
All of Roppe's production facilities have mixing and calendering operations, except for the wood product site. The Alabama plant employs about 140 while the factory in Florida has a work force of 180.