Waterloo Industries Inc. announced in September it had been purchased by AFI Partners, but that isn’t the only big news the toolbox manufacturer has to announce — after consolidating other plants, Sedalia is now home to Waterloo Headquarters.
Waterloo has been in Sedalia since 1978 and employs more than 350 full-time employees. 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.
AFI Partners is a New York-based private equity firm with a background of helping small and mid-size industrial companies.
Waterloo corporate headquarters was previously in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and another plant was located in Nogales, Mexico. After those consolidations, all Waterloo employees now work in Sedalia, with the exception of a sales office in Waterloo, Iowa. This means a recent move of a “high-end market” line of toolboxes from Mexico to Sedalia, and with that new line comes new jobs.
Jeff Swacker, Director of Production and Engineering, said the company’s sale has created misconceptions in the area that the plant is closing, but he wanted to tell people that is definitely not the case.
“Waterloo Industries is headquartered in Sedalia, Missouri, now and the only positions that are outside of Sedalia are sales positions. We do have a sales office in Waterloo, Iowa, and we have sales people scattered that work in regional areas,” Swacker said. “… All the key positions other than sales will be located here in Sedalia.”
“It’s exciting for our people here because we can control our own destiny,” added HR Manager Courtney Ferrel.
Swacker said the new product line brought up from Mexico to Sedalia is the highest quality level of product made at Waterloo, with units ranging from $10,000 to $12,000. It uses the same press and weld process, but is held to a “much higher standard than other product lines.”
Those new positions will work on this line, and Ferrel said weld and assembly for the new industrial product line adds about 45 jobs.
“These are some management positions and key hourly positions that are going to have $15 an hour. It’s a good salary for this area from an hourly standpoint,” Swacker said. “The last thing we want to do is post these positions and have people scared to change jobs and upgrade themselves in fear of it’s short-term. That’s the message we’re giving — we’re bringing these jobs in and we’re here to stay.”
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had any hourly positions we haven’t gone through a temp service to get,” Ferrel added. “So posting hourly jobs is a big deal for us. It’s permanent.”
This is the second year in a row Waterloo’s Sedalia plant has received a new line from another plant. Last year, the company’s 40-inch cabinet line, which Swacker called a mid-tier level box, was moved to Sedalia.
The Sedalia plant has survived several company consolidations, and is now the last plant standing. Linda Christle, director of Economic Development Sedalia-Pettis County, who has assisted Waterloo through its growth, said that is a testament to the quality of the community and the employees in Sedalia.
“I think one of the things that talks so highly about the quality of the employees, the quality and passion of the employees in all of the divisions is the fact that throughout the 30 plus years, there have been a lot of plants,” Christle said. “As those plants have closed, it’s always been, ‘we’re either going to close this one or that one and meld them in.’ And every time, Sedalia plant came out as the winner.
“… Every one could’ve gone the other way. It shows to the quality of their employees and the quality of their product.”
Ferrel admitted the plant is coming out of some tough times, but said the opposite is now happening.
“We’ve had a couple of tough years the last few years, we’ve had some reductions,” she said. “We’ve had to do what we had to do to fight and keep the plant here and running efficiently. Now we’re pulling jobs into the plant and consolidating lines to here. It’s a growth for Sedalia.”
While future plans aren’t set in stone, Swacker said the company is looking into new investments to continue growth for Waterloo Industries.
“Capital investments are being looked at, so it’s going to grow beyond the people, and as those investments are brought in, there will be another ad for additional people as we grow,” he said.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.