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COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — La Porte-based Surf Broadband Solutions will Wednesday kick off a $5 million fiber project in Columbia City. The company says the effort will create the first city-wide 100% fiber optic network to provide high-speed internet for residents and businesses.

Surf Broadband says the project will help close the “homework gap” and allow for reliable remote work possibilities. The network build is expected to take two years complete.

The kickoff will include remarks from Columbia City Mayor Ryan Daniel and Whitley County Economic Development Corp. President Dale Buuck, among others. The official launch is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday.

COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Columbia City-based Sailrite Enterprises Inc. has announced plans to grow its footprint in northeast Indiana. The company, which provides fabric, tools, hardware and sewing supplies, plans to invest more than $3 million to expand its Whitley County headquarters and create up to 50 jobs by the end of 2024.

The expansion will bring its headquarters to more than 100,000 square feet. The company says the addition will include professional office space and new packaging machinery and material handling equipment. 

Sailrite provides supplies for the marine, home, outdoor living, RV and hobby markets. The company says the project will allow it to serve expanded markets in in the DIY sewing arena. 

President Hallie Grant and Vice President Matt Grant add the expansion was made possible with the help of Whitley County and the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

“It is by the hard work and dedication of our employees and the enthusiasm of our worldwide DIY customer base that such a rapid expansion is possible for our third-generation family business,” the Grants said in a news release. “This expansion will enable us to widen our customer base, and we look forward to serving a larger audience of enthusiastic and resourceful DIYers.”

Officials broke ground on the project Wednesday and expect construction to be complete by the end of the year. Sailrite currently employs 60 in Columbia City and is hiring for various positions, including order fulfillment, customer service, social media marketing, videography, and human resources.

The IEDC has offered Sailrite up to $400,000 in conditional tax credits, which the company will not be eligible to claim until Hoosier workers are hired for the new jobs. The Whitley County Economic Development Corp. and Northeast Indiana Works have approved additional incentives.

COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Columbia City-based manufacturer 80/20 Inc. has received an investment from a private equity firm co-headquartered in Boston and Cleveland. While terms of the deal were not disclosed, MPE Partners says its investment will position 80/20 for accelerated growth.

80/20 manufactures multi-function aluminum building systems for a variety of applications, including robotics, material handling and industrial manufacturing.

MPE Partner Joe Machado says the goal of the investment is to accentuate 80/20’s brand, capabilities, product offerings, and customer and distributor relationships. 80/20 Chief Executive Officer Patrick Buesching calls the investment an “incredible opportunity.”

“With MPE’s investment we have access to financial and operational resources that will propel us to be an even better partner to our customers and distributors,” said Buesching. “80/20 was founded on the belief that we should always strive for improvement and find opportunities to evolve and become even better so we can do more for our customers. This is the next step on the path to achieving more.”

MPE did not specify whether any jobs would be created as a result of the investment.

COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A pair of companies in the orthopedic medical device industry have opened their new headquarters in Columbia City. When it was first announced in late 2019, Mach Medical, along with sister company SITES Medical, said the $14 million project would create up to 132 jobs by the end of 2025.

Mach Medical is an orthopedic medical device supply chain company and SITES Medical develops orthopedic medical device technology. The companies say the new, 36,000-square-foot facility will help orthopedic OEMs reduce their inventory by up to 83% and cost of goods by up to 48%.

“We are thrilled to be operating in our new facility”, Steve Rozow, co-founder and general manager of Mach Medical, said in a news release. “A custom-designed building with an open floor plan gives us the flexibility to configure equipment and working groups as needed over time.”

The new headquarters is located in the Park 30 Business Center in Columbia City.

Greg Stalcup, founder and chief executive officer of SITES Medical and co-founder of Mach Medical, says the facility gives the companies room to grow. If needed, the companies have the ability to nearly double the square footage at the site.

LARWILL, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – The Whitley County Economic Development Corp. is ready to officially open the new Whitko Career Academy in the town of Larwill. The organization says the learning center will open its doors Saturday with a banquet and ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The academy for high school students and adults in Whitley and Kosciusko counties is designed to support career readiness in the fields of agriculture, engineering, and manufacturing, among others.

The EDC says the center was possible due to partnerships with the 80/20 Foundation Trust in Columbia City and The Whitley County Community Foundation.

The WCA says it will host a banquet and ribbon cutting for the public on Saturday with tours beginning at 3 p.m., and the ribbon cutting at 5:30 p.m.

The academy is located off State Road 5 and Highway 30 in Larwill.

COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — More broadband internet is coming to Whitley County after a deal is reached with Whitley County Board of Commissioners. The county was able to use a grant from a COVID-19 relief bill to secure the agreement. 

“Internet has been a top-priority concern for the commissioners, and we’ve been diligently working on this for two years. We want this project to benefit the whole county,” said George Schrumpf, Whitley County Commissioner.

Commissioners say they met with several providers before deciding on Mercury since they felt the company was best able to meet time restraints. Funds from the grant must be used by Dec. 30, 2020. Commissioners say Mercury was already providing service in the county with Connect America Funds through the Federal Communications Commission, and this deal will allow them to serve more of the county. 

“Internet access is an important part of today’s workplace, education and economic development initiatives. The goal is to provide internet access to as many as possible. If a child is sent home from school with homework, we want them to be able to complete the work,” said Don Amber, Whitley County Commissioners chairman.

The County Commission says 10 towers will be built on established structures in the county and Mercury will provide connection speeds up to 100 Mbps. 

SOUTH WHITLEY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — South Whitley-based Ag Plus Inc. is expanding its northeast Indiana operations. The agriculture cooperative is planning to invest $5.6 million to build a new manufacturing and storage facility in Columbia City and create a small number of jobs.

Ag Plus, which has five facilities in Whitley County and six more elsewhere in the region, specializes in agronomy, energy, feed, grain and turf, as well as retail.

The Whitley County Economic Development Corp. says the 37,000-square-foot facility will add more than 10,000 tons of storage capacity for the co-op and provide space to continue manufacturing crop nutrients.

“The expansion allows for improved efficiency for area ag producers and Ag Plus,” Jeff Mize, chief executive officer of Ag Plus, said in a news release.

The Whitley County Council has approved a tax abatement for the project. Construction on the new facility is expected to begin this fall and be complete in March of next year.

COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Undersea Signal Systems, Inc. has been awarded a multi-million dollar contract with the U.S. Navy to work on a prototype sonobuoy. The prototype is known as Extended Range Directional Frequency Analysis and Recording, which is able to detect new and quiet threat submarine targets.

The more than $28 million contract covers a 3-year period with a 1-year option period. The proposals are received throughout the year under the Long Range Broad Agency Announcement for Navy and Marine Corps Science and Technology, which means the number of proposals is not known.

All the work will be performed in Columbia City and is to be completed by July 2024. The Office of Naval Research in Arlington, Virginia is the contracting activity. 

COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded a contract to to ERAPSCO in Columbia City. The nearly $72 million contract, which calls for the production and delivery of 20,000 sonobuoys for use by the U.S. Navy, is an extension of a previously-awarded contract.

ERAPSCO is a joint venture between Columbia City-based Ultra Electronics Holdings plc and Illinois-based Sparton Corp. (NYSE: SPA). Sonobuoys are air-launched expendable, electro-mechanical anti-submarine warfare acoustic sensors designed to relay underwater sounds associated with ships and submarines.

The work will be performed in De Leon Spring, Florida and Columbia City and is expected to be completed by July 2022.

The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, Maryland is the contracting activity.

COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – An Ohio-based orthopedic company is planning to purchase new high-tech equipment it says will improve capabilities and help upskill the labor force in Whitley County. Kyocera SGS Precision Tools says its more than $1 million investment in the manufacturing equipment will provide greater capabilities and add capacity at its Columbia City facility.

The company says the new capabilities will involve CNC grinding and product inspection.

“The new equipment purchased by Kyocera will provide new training opportunities for incumbent employees while creating a path for future expansion and job creation locally,” said Riley Hollenbaugh, Whitley County Economic Development Corp. community and workforce development director.

The Whitley County Economic Development Corp. says the Columbia City Council approved a tax abatement of just over $1 million for the project in May.