Ducommun to proceed with expansion
By Jamie Willey firstname.lastname@example.org |
Earlier this year, Parsons was on the brink of losing a major employer, but instead of relocating, Ducommun Inc. decided to maintain its facility at 3333 Main, and on Thursday the general manager announced the plant will be expanded.
“We will be going forward,” John Kelley, Ducommun vice president and general manager of the Parsons facility, said of the expansion plan.
Ducommun had considered accepting what was termed as a very attractive offer from Coffeyville to relocate to that city, but Kelley announced in early March the company would remain here, with the possibility of an expansion.
Kelley said the company has decided to build 37,000-square-foot and 14,000-square-foot additions. The new space would accommodate the addition of more than 80 new jobs. Now it’s up to corporation’s board of directors to approve the expansion, but Kelley thinks the board will agree with the plan.
“We feel very confident that we’re making the right decision and the board will approve it,” Kelley said.
The board will decide on the issue in early May. If the board gives the green light, Kelley said Crossland Construction Co., Columbus, could break ground in June, with a target completion date in January.
Under the plan, Ducommun would vacate its offices at the front of the existing building and move them into the smaller addition that would be built in the middle of the U-shaped building. The vacated office space then would be renovated to manufacturing space. The larger addition would be built on the north side of the existing building, running parallel to abandoned railroad tracks.
JOBS Inc., a privately owned Parsons nonprofit economic development group, is in the process of acquiring the adjacent SEK Mini Storage property and part of the SEK Auto Sales property, and Kelley said the owner, David Stice, already has started vacating. JOBS Inc. will give the property to Ducommun as an incentive to expand. The storage units would be demolished to make way for a parking lot expansion and a driveway to accommodate large trucks delivering material. The SEK Auto Sales building would remain, but Ducommun would get a portion of the auto sales property. Trucks picking up finished product from Ducommun would leave from an existing driveway on the west side of the building.
The city of Parsons also will give the company incentives. The Parsons City Commission approved a resolution on Jan. 28 that stated the city intends to issue up to $6.5 million in industrial revenue bonds to support the expansion. The company will be responsible for paying off the bonds, but the bonds will trigger a 10-year property tax abatement on the assessed valuation of the expansion. Jim Zaleski, economic development director for the city, has said the abatement may be 100 percent. The company will continue to pay the full amount of property taxes on the existing valuation of the building.
Kelley said the city also has proposed a cash incentive. Zaleski, who has declined to reveal the makeup of a potential incentive package during negotiations with the company, said Thursday a payment from the city has been offered since the beginning of talks, but he declined to give the amount.
Zaleski plans to meet with Kelley on Friday to go over step-by-step the expansion plans. They, and probably other city staff members and Ducommun employees, also will discuss the amount of money the city should give to the company and what part of the expansion it should go toward. Besides construction of the addition, the expansion will include new equipment and technology, Kelley said. Zaleski may discuss specifics of the incentive package with city commissioners as soon as their Monday evening meeting.
Zaleski, who knew about the decision to expand prior to Thursday’s announcement by Kelley, obviously was happy about the news.
“We couldn’t be more pleased,” he said.
Zaleski plans to help however he can to fill the more than 80 new jobs to be created. Ryan Seme, director of workforce training at Labette Community College, also may help. Zaleski said LCC’s WorkKeys, which is a series of assessments that measure real world, hard and soft employee skills, may help Ducommun determine which applicants have the right skills for the new jobs.
Zaleski said he doesn’t know the timing of the hiring of the new employees but hopes to hear that information on Friday.
“Hopefully, tomorrow we’ll hear we need to go out and help fill a bunch of jobs, which is great for the city of Parsons,” Zaleski said.
Kelley said Ducommun plans to hire the more than 80 new workers by 2019, but he didn’t specify how many would be hired each year.
“We’re looking at almost doubling the growth here from where we are right now,” Kelley said.
He said he couldn’t reveal the exact number of jobs at the facility.
In addition to the incentives from the city and JOBS Inc., Kelley said the state of Kansas also has offered worker training grants and income tax breaks for new employees moving here from out of state. Kelley has set a rule at the Parsons plant that workers must live within 50 miles of the facility. That will allow the company to hire people from surrounding cities such as Independence, Coffeyville, Chanute and Pittsburg while cutting the turnover that is common for people commuting farther.
The expansion of the facility that builds titanium structures and assemblies for the air and space industry is driven by new business from aircraft manufacturers Boeing, Spirit AeroSystems, Airbus and Gulfstream. Kelley said the Parsons facility primarily builds parts for fixed-wing aircraft.
Kelley, who was born and raised in Parsons, said it was a “big relief” for his employees and him that the company was able to stay in town. Ultimately, though, the decision was made based on the needs of Ducommun’s customers as a relocation would have caused disruptions in normal business.