And that was the choice of the Intec Group, Palatine, IL, which faced either expansion or relocation of its Morocco, IN molding facility.
The Intec Group is a family-owned and -operated business that manufactures custom designed insert and injection molded components for the automotive, telecommunications, and consumer-electronics industries. In 1953, current president Steve Perlman's grandfather and father established a factory in the agricultural-based rural town of Morocco, IN.
In the '60s and '70s the company, operating under the name Permonite, began using more plastic components in its assemblies, and logically, "bought a couple of injection molding presses," says Steve Perlman. At that time, "Our biggest product was picture tube sockets for color TVs." Then Permonite began to supply components to the automotive industry when Philco was bought by Ford. "We were introduced to the buyers of automotive components, and we became a molded harness manufacturer for Ford, starting in the early '70s."
"In the '80s the company grew rapidly with most of the automotive companies, including the Japanese," says Scott Perlman, executive vice-president and Steve's brother. Meanwhile, the original 15,000-sq-ft facility in Morocco was expanding in "bits and pieces" to its final 45,000 sq ft. With growth also came a mid-'80s name change to the Intec Group Inc.
"Our business in the '50s and '60s was in consumer electronics; in the '70s and '80s, automotive; and in the '90s, automotive and telecommunications," says Scott. "Today our fastest growing market is with Motorola in the cellular phone business." The Intec Group supplies Motorola with pull-up antennas for flip phones, molded casing housings for battery packs, and insert molded connectors for the battery packs. Automotive also remains a big market; the company is negotiating to ship product to Japan. It has also opened a Singapore facility as part of its strategic design to position itself globally.
As the business grew, it became clear that the outdated Morocco facility had to be replaced. "The original Morocco plant was not designed as a molding facility," says Scott. "It was built in parcels; it had no air-conditioning, and on a summer day the temperature on the floor could reach 100F. Plus there was a lot of humidity, so process control became a real challenge."
When word got out that the company was looking to expand, nearby counties made "fairly attractive offers," says Scott. "We looked in Illinois (Morocco is in Newton county, about 100 miles south of Chicago, across the border in Indiana) and in Rensselaer, in adjacent Jasper county, which has an industrial park and good infrastructure and came in with a very aggressive proposal.
"It was a very difficult decision, but we'd been in Morocco for 40 years and were very sensitive to what would happen to the economy if we pulled out. Plus, and this is at the heart of the decision to stay put, we did not want to lose the people who work there--their work ethic, their ability to grasp new information, their willingness to accept change. They have outstanding values and a lot of character. And given the fact that Morocco is a rural area, we risked losing a lot of these people just by moving 15 miles away. Some walk to work."
A feasibility study was begun, with an officer and long-term associate (as employees are called) Gary White in charge. He became the champion of the effort to keep the business in Morocco. "He literally dragged this project along on his back, and the townspeople rallied around him. A committee was formed that went to the state and county and got the infrastructure improvements we needed, like a sewage system and more reliable power. It got the regional Kankakee Valley Authority to cooperate, and met with representatives from Purdue, which has a department of engineering with a lot of capability in plastics the department wanted to share with us. Then the state provided affordable, low-cost economic development bond money through LaSalle National Bank, Chicago, for construction of the plant and for new equipment. The town came up with parcels of land, not for free, but they found it for us."
The new 63,000-sq-ft plant, situated on 20 acres, cost $4 million to build--14,000 sq ft are devoted to a two-story office complex. An additional $2 million was used to buy 15 new presses (the plant has a total of 40) and to update other equipment. Intec is trying to sell the old plant for a modest price to entice another business into town.
As part of the dedication of the new facility, the Perlmans buried a commemorative time capsule to be revisited in 25 years. "After 43 years, we have a lot of history," says Steve Perlman. "Many of our people have been with us 20 years or more, and their parents and grandparents worked with us. So the issue of tradition is important." Included in the time capsule are a master list of all the parts the company makes and has made and the first shots off the first press in the new factory.