It’s been about a year since Sedalia was named Waterloo Industries Inc. Headquarters, and CEO Bill Nictakis spoke with community members Wednesday afternoon at the facility about the progress that has been made since making that decision.
Waterloo Industries Inc. announced in September 2015 it had been purchased by AFI Partners. After consolidating plants, including one in Nogales, Mexico, Sedalia became home to Waterloo Headquarters. All Waterloo employees now work in Sedalia, with the exception of a sales office in Waterloo, Iowa.
“We chose Sedalia. There were a lot of skeptics, why aren’t you going to lower-cost Mexico? The reality was the decision was based on analytics but it was based on people,” Nictakis said. “You come in here and you meet the people here. We have roughly 400 people here with average tenure of over 15 years. We didn’t have that in Mexico. There’s a lot of pride, a lot of passion, a lot of experience in our workforce.
“So we think we made the right decision a year ago of shutting down Mexico and moving production here. A year later, we know we made the right decision hitching our wagon to the Sedalia, Missouri, workforce.”
Nictakis also noted that Waterloo is now the only U.S. manufacturer of tool storage products that are sold at retail outlets.
When the Democrat spoke with Waterloo officials last year about the consolidation, they noted it meant the move of a “high-end market” line of toolboxes from Mexico to Sedalia, which meant new jobs. Nictakis had positive news regarding those jobs.
“Our decision has been good for Waterloo, it’s been good for Sedalia. Over the last 12 months, we’ve added 70 full-time positions here,” Nictakis said to applause from the crowd gathered outside the facility. “Fifty-five, fifty-six are in the plant in production, but there’s a director of IT, a new CFO is about to join, accounts payable, receivable, etc. A lot of good paying, good benefit positions added here.”
Nictakis said the company will also be starting an internship program next summer.
Nictakis said $3 million is being spent on capital improvements this year at the facility. Plant Manager Phil Frecking said the majority of next year’s estimated $3 million in capital improvements will be spent on improving automation.
“It’s really focused on automation so we can increase capacity even more,” Frecking said. “We’ve got equipment in here that makes drawers, we make millions of drawers a year. We just happen to stick them in tool chests. We’ve got to get better at making drawers, more automated, more quality, so we’re putting most of our capital money next year into those processes. People won’t leave the plant, but as a result we’ll be able to bring in more sales, re-position ourselves and take on more product.”
Frecking also added that Waterloo launched two new products this year.
“If you’re at Craftsman you’ll see a product that has a top on it … with a large open till where you can set power tools in there, shut the lid and you don’t have to take your drill off the stand, you can actually plug it in, there’s an outlet there,” he explained. “… We’re in the middle of another launch … It’s got an electronic lock on it, so if you’re out of state and your wife needs to get in your toolbox because she wants to get to the power saw, you can unlock it remotely with your phone, it’s Bluetooth technology.”
Waterloo has been in Sedalia since 1978. According to its website, the company offers a product line that includes tool storage chests and cabinets, utility carts, portable tool storage, project centers, workbenches, garage organization and wall storage products for retail and industrial use.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or on Twitter @NicoleRCooke.