The country's second-largest maker of pet kennels is preparing to open a new distribution center in Ottawa.
Kennel-Aire LLC, of Plymouth, Minn., will distribute its metal and plastic kennels from the former Lester Building Systems center in the Davis Road Industrial Park, said Chester Beavers, Kennel-Aire's vice president and chief operating officer.
The company paid $1 million for the 40,000-square-foot building and its 22-acre lot. Kennel-Aire plans to open the center by April 1 with about a dozen employees, Beavers said, and boost the work force to 30 within a year.
"We're on a fast track," he said.
Privately held Kennel-Aire last year sold 150,000 of its kennels for revenues of nearly $10 million, Beavers said. The company has two kennel lines: Kennel-Aire, made from metal wire; and Plastic-Crate, made from plastic.
The company makes its metal kennels in Mountain Lake, Minn.; the plastic ones are made by American Wilcon, in Orrick, Mo., and Mid-America Plastics, in Gardner.
Kennel-Aire's decision to open a distribution center in Ottawa means that its existing center in Waverly, 23 miles away, will be adjusted. The Waverly center's dozen employees have agreed to move to the Ottawa complex, leaving the 12,000-square-foot building in Waverly to be used for storage and processing.
Kennel-Aire briefly considered Lawrence as a location for the new center but quickly backed off.
"Too far off the beaten path," Beavers said, noting that officials wanted a site closer to Interstate 35.
Kennel-Aire had sales of less than $1 million five years ago but its sales have risen through stores such as Petsmart and Target, plus mail-order giant Foster & Smith.
"Last year was our slowest growth rate in five years, and we grew 21 percent," Beavers said. "I tell people there's two things we've always been out of: space and money.
"This will take care of the space. I don't know if it will take care of the money."
The company is seeking a six-year, 75 percent tax abatement for the project, plus a 100 percent break on sales taxes that would be charged on new equipment. Beavers said the center would need about $200,000 in new equipment.