(From the July 9, 2012, issue of Rubber & Plastics News)
TOPEKA, Ind.—Rubber weatherstripping maker Nishikawa Cooper L.L.C. plans to expand its factory in Topeka to match demand for the firm's products in the automotive sector.
The majority of the project is the addition of production equipment, according to Mike Talaga, vice president and general manager of Nishikawa Cooper, a joint venture of Cooper-Standard Automotive Inc. and Nishikawa Rubber Co. Ltd.
The new machinery, including rubber extrusion lines and associated equipment, is needed to boost output of sealing products for the growing automotive industry, he said.
Japanese original equipment manufacturers are increasing orders in North America, Talaga said, and the company picked up some business previously handled by competitors. That prompted the need for the equipment.
Headquartered in Topeka, the company is spending about $5.5 million for the machinery, which “will give us the needed production capacity to fill demand for our dynamic sealing systems,” he said. Another 15 jobs are likely to be added to the plant's current work force of about 435.
The facility's capacity for EPDM and plastic sealing products is being boosted with the additional machinery, Talaga said. The company does not plan to refurbish the factory, but there could be some upgrades in the future.
Demand for Nishikawa Cooper's sealing systems “is being driven by both the resurgence of the foreign automotive markets as well as our competitive pricing, and we are glad to make the investment locally,” he said.
About 98 percent of the parts made at the plant are for automotive facilities in North America. The company—which operates another weatherstripping plant in Bremen, Ind.—serves customers in the automotive industry including Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Chrysler, Subaru and Mazda. It also has a plant in Mexico.
At the request of the LaGrange County Economic Development Department, Topeka approved a 10-year tax abatement plan to support the expansion and the additions to the work force, according to Keith Gillenwater, president and CEO of the organization. The department, created in 2009, is Topeka's economic development arm.
Nishikawa Cooper “is one of our largest employers in LaGrange County and a cornerstone of our Tier 1 automotive chain,” he said.
Overseas investment is coming into Topeka because a number of foreign automotive plants in the state are being supplied by the factory, he said. Indiana is an excellent place for manufacturers to set up shop, especially in cities like Topeka, Gillenwater said, because “we have a work force and school system that can support manufacturing.”
“We have enjoyed a great relationship with Topeka and LaGrange County over the years, and we are happy to continue to build upon it,” Talaga said.
Standard Products Co.—later acquired by Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and spun off as Cooper-Standard—and Japan's Nishikawa Rubber formed the joint venture in 1986. It initially was called Nishikawa Standard; its name was changed to Nishikawa Cooper in March 2011.
Nishikawa owns about 60 percent of the joint venture while Cooper-Standard controls the remaining shares.