A Michigan-based company plans to nearly double the footprint and number of jobs at a 30-year-old Eldridge engineering firm.
Eckhart Inc., which designs and produces manufacturing equipment, purchased Eagle Engineering in Eldridge this past summer. The company plans to expand operations by adding 29,000 square feet to the facility and creating an additional 50 jobs.
"Eckhart is a growing company and looking to expand geographically," said Travis Turner, the new general manager. "Eagle kind of hit the sweet spot geographically. We wanted to be a part of the manufacturing sector along the I-80 corridor, plus get more into the agriculture industry. The area has a good reputation here with Deere & Co., Case and a lot of others."
Turner said the company plans to nearly double the size of the existing facility, to make room for new technology that will increase production and facilitate equipment testing.
Earlier this month, the Iowa Economic Development Authority Board awarded tax incentives for the project. The nearly $7 million investment is expected to add 50 jobs to the plant's existing 60 positions. Approximately 30 of the new jobs are expected to pay at least $19.30 per hour, according to the agreement.
"That's a pretty big deal for Eldridge, as a relatively small city of around 6,500 people," said Jacque Matsen with the IEDA. "That puts Eagle Engineering in the top 10 employers in town. And it's a nice contribution to Scott County's role in the state economy as one of the largest exporting counties."
The Eldridge City Council will consider on Monday whether to approve a tax increment financing agreement for the project, according to Assistant City Administrator James Martin.
The proposed $6 million expansion would bring Eagle's assessed value to more than $7.7 million, according to the proposed recommendation to the council. The TIF would result in a new property tax payment of more than $96,000 per year on the increment, totaling around $372,600 over the course of five years.
Eagle Engineering was founded as a two-man engineering design shop in 1989, according to co-founder Bryan Purdy. Today, the company designs and builds tooling, special machines and equipment for companies such as Deere & Co., Caterpillar and others.
While Purdy wasn't looking to sell the company, as he reaches retirement age, he said the "timing just felt right."
"Their plan is to expand on our current business and bring in the support they have out of Michigan," Purdy said. "We're the fifth acquisition for them in the last few years, so it's a rapidly growing company. Our employees are all very excited about the opportunities that are ahead of us. And I'm going to hang around for a while because I love what I do and I'm excited to see it go to the next level."
He added, the "company vision was a good fit for the Eagle personnel."
"For years, Eagle has been providing manufacturing solutions that bring real value to our customers production processes," Purdy said. "It's a natural progression for Eagle's personnel to become a part of Eckhart’s industry-leading commitment to accelerating the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies for the largest industrial companies in the world.”
Turner said Eckhart plans to begin designing the expansion next month, then break ground over the winter. The company expects to host a grand opening celebration next fall, he said.