The wheels of economic development are turning in the Maple City as a startup equipment manufacturer is planning to move in.
Norwalk Council on Tuesday authorized the mayor to approve a loan for Structure Manufacturing Group, a company that’s aiming to hire 150 people over the next three years if it can acquire the former Commercial Vehicle Group building.
Commercial Vehicle’s Norwalk plant closed last year after a major customer, Navistar, moved its truck cab assembly operations to Mexico. About 120 local workers were left without jobs.
A $330,000 revolving loan fund agreement with Norwalk will help Structure Manufacturing Group with its plans to purchase the former Commercial Vehicle property.
The money will also pay for equipment needed to start the assembly line again.
The seven-year loan has a 3 percent fixed interest rate and requires approval from the Ohio Department of Development. That’s likely to happen next month, city officials said.
Representatives from Structure Manufacturing Group are still negotiating the building’s purchase price, but they want to start operations early next year.
The building is in need of some renovations, but it’s already set up for painting and manufacturing large vehicles.
The new company hopes to expand on that function, possibly venturing into the aerospace and agriculture industries, Structure Manufacturing Group spokesman Jeff Vogel said.
“The plant was very successful for a number of years, and we think we can continue that,” said Vogel, who’s experienced in foundry management.
Vogel and his partners considered other locations but chose Norwalk because of the available property and the strong workforce in the city. Cooperation from city officials didn’t hurt either.
After announcing their plans, Norwalk council and residents at Tuesday’s meeting applauded Structure Manufacturing Group.
Norwalk Economic Development Corp. director Ellen Heinz and mayor Sue Lesch said they’re excited about the project’s potential, particularly since they worked with the company for several months.
“We couldn’t express or thank you enough for your commitment to this community,” Heinz said.