Chesterton Tribune


Urschel labs: There's no place like home

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160 acre future home of Urschel Laboratories is outlined in white:

Ind. 49 is at left and the Indiana Toll Road is at bottom



It took the Urschel family—owner of Urschel Laboratories Inc., the world leader in precision food-cutting equipment—one year to decide that there’s really no place like home.

Hence the family’s decision, announced late last year, to move the corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility—for more than a century located in Valparaiso—not across the country, not even elsewhere in the state or the region, but just up the road to Chesterton.

The decision to remain in Porter County was based largely on the Urschel family’s desire to impact the lives of its 300 workers’ families as little as possible, Bill Baker, Urschel’s director of real estate, told the Chesterton Tribune today.

“With all the places courting Urschel Laboratories, the family and employees were happy to be able to stay in Porter County and keep 300 high-paying jobs in Porter County,” Baker said.

Just about a year ago, in January 2012, the Urschel family made the difficult decision to re-locate, Baker added, a move necessitated by a lack of available property for future growth, after fully 28 expansions of the facility over the previous 40 years. “For most of the last 100 years, our location has been in unincorporated Porter County and the City of Valparaiso grew up around us,” he said. “We just basically ran out of room and it had become an operational challenge of how to make expansion work on the floor.”

Urschel Laboratories investigated sites “across the country, across Indiana, and across Northwest Indiana,” Baker said. “My responsibility was to explore the marketplace and the marketplace is everywhere.” And while “there was property available in Valparaiso,” as always “location, location, location” proved an important consideration.

In the end the Urschel family plumped for Coffee Creek Center, and specifically the Third Addition in the southwest quadrant of the development.

Coffee Creek Center has a number of advantages, Baker said. There is, for one thing, “enough acreage for future growth and not just for the near-term but for the next 100 years,” while the site’s “proximity to the Indiana Toll Road” is also a great convenience.

In addition, Coffee Creek Center is “already in a TIF district,” Baker noted, although Town of Chesterton officials have not yet said how exactly tax increment financing will play a role in the development of Urschel Laboratories’ new facility.

Of course, “as a business proposition, the Urschel family wanted to limit the amount of impact on employees,” Baker said.

The Urschel family’s decision to move to Coffee Creek Center is “like a recipe with many ingredients,” Baker suggested. “You can pick a particular ingredient but the recipe really depends on all of them together.”

One other factor is significant. Urschel Laboratories is committed to building its new facility with zero impact on customers. That means “there will be a period when we’re running two facilities,” the one in Valparaiso and the other in Chesterton, Baker said. “The investment by the family is significant beyond what you can convey with incentives.”

Urschel Laboratories is under contract specifically to purchase 160 acres at Coffee Creek Center. Of that amount, the company expects to use 40 to 50 acres going forward. What it might do with the balance, somewhere down the road, is an issue not currently on the table, Baker said “Currently our focus is 100 percent on the challenge of moving a world-class, worldwide manufacturing facility in two and a half or three years. We have no real plans whatsoever for the additional land. And we haven’t gotten into yet what will happen with the current facility.”

Baker referred questions about incentives to town officials, after noting that, in any case, the process is a public one in which certain approvals must be secured. “A lot of things could happen that cause challenges,” he said. “Something could happen. But this is the direction all of our resources are moving toward.”

Urschel Laboratories traces its roots to William Urschel’s design of the Gooseberry Snipper in 1910, used to remove stem and blossom ends for gooseberries. Now it offers over 50 different modes of food-processing equipment, including high-capacity slices, dicers, shredders, and milling equipment. Urschel International Limited, a subsidiary, has 10 branches in Europe and is headquartered in Leicester, UK. Urschel Pacific Asia comprises a series of direct offices across Asia and is headquartered in Singapore.



Posted 1/11/2013