Firm to get tax deal for facility; Unanimous vote by council will allow $1.25 million project

A local manufacturer of steel coil wire has plans to build a new warehouse in Seymour’s Eastside Industrial Park.

O&k American Corp. will invest an estimated $1.25 million this year to construct the building on the west side of its plant at 1625 Bateman Drive. Raw materials and other items needed to produce wire for existing and new markets will be stored in it.

The Japanese-based company supplies steel coil wire to automotive, construction and other markets worldwide.

Company vice president Chris White and Mary Winburn with Jackson County Industrial Development Corp. attended Monday’s city council meeting to request a tax abatement, allowing O&k to phase in paying taxes on the project over the next 10 years.

The council unanimously approved the abatement.

Construction of the warehouse is expected to begin this month and wrap up by the end of the year.

Last year, the company completed a 13,500-square-foot addition for a new annealing furnace to treat steal.

That project, including the new equipment, cost $5.2 million.

O&k opened in 2010 in the building that previously had served as a Kobelco Metal Powder of America plant, investing just more than $3 million to renovate the building. Kobelco closed in early 2009.

Between 2010 and 2016, the company invested nearly $35 million more, Winburn said.

As part of the current project, O&k will be working with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the city to relocate a ditch on the west side of the property to allow for the expansion.

With the new facility, the company plans to hire two new employees, increasing its current direct hire workforce to 45.

White said the actual number of workers at the plant is closer to 55 when temporary workers are factored in.

“Because of the difficulty in retaining team members, we’ve been using a lot more of the placement agencies while we’re trying to get them on board,” White said. “We want to have them all as our employees.”

O&k and other area manufacturers continue to face challenges when it comes to hiring “qualified and talented workers” from the area, White said.

“We stand ready to support Seymour and the state of Indiana in any effort to improve this condition,” he said.

Mayor Craig Luedeman said low unemployment in the area makes hiring difficult. The unemployment rate in Seymour and Jackson County averaged 3.2 percent a month this past year, and that 3.2 rate was lowest in the state in December, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

“If someone doesn’t have a job, it’s because they don’t want one or they aren’t looking,” he said.