Company that makes parts for railroads considering deal to locate factory in Eudora

A company that makes flashing red lights for the railroad industry is on the verge of giving the green light to a project that would bring dozens of manufacturing jobs to Douglas County.

Canadian-based Modern Manufacturing is in negotiations with the city of Eudora to locate a factory in the eastern Douglas County town that would employ about 40 people. The Eudora City Commission earlier this week gave preliminary approval to a 50%, 10-year tax abatement in anticipation that the company ultimately will choose Eudora for the project.

Ed Snow, vice president for Modern Manufacturing, said the railway services company has a “small list” of communities that it is considering for the project.

“We’re not going to hold anyone in suspense too long,” Snow said of a possible announcement. “I can tell you that we really like what we see to this point.”

Snow said the company hoped to begin operations by the end of the year, meaning an announcement could be made in the coming weeks.

Eudora officials are optimistic about their chances of sealing the deal.

“We are very excited, and hopefully it will all work,” Barack Matite, Eudora city manager, said. “All signs indicated it will be a great addition to the community. All cities love to diversify their tax bases. This piece is going to be great in helping us diversify our tax base.”

The project has an estimated price tag of about $8.3 million to purchase, renovate and equip the building, and the company’s local payroll is projected at about $2 million a year. Many of the plant’s technical workers would make about $50,000 per year, according to documents the company submitted to the city.

The company makes a variety of products for the railway industry. Those include the light systems used at crossings, while a big product is the steel “bungalows” that are located alongside the tracks and house electronic equipment for the railway.

The Eudora factory would be the company’s first in the U.S., and is driven by increased U.S. demand, especially as more cities start to look at transit and light rail projects, Snow said. The company, though, also serves major, national railroad lines, like Burlington Northern Santa Fe.

Modern Manufacturing’s parent company is Stacy and Witbeck, a U.S.-based construction company that focuses on railway projects.

Plans call for the company to locate in an approximately 50,000 square-foot warehouse building in Eudora’s Intech Business Park, which is on the east edge of town. The warehouse, 1202 Cardinal Drive, has been vacant for the last couple of years after Sacs Distributors left the space.

Snow said the large amount of railway activity that runs through Kansas was an appealing reason to look at the state. The availability of a building and close access to major highways also played a role in the company looking at Eudora.

Matite said a fortunate twist also was that one of the company’s executives actually was familiar with the community of about 6,300 people. The executive at one point lived in the Kansas City metro area, but regularly took his dog to a Eudora-area veterinarian.

While that maybe won’t be the item that seals a deal, the company is impressed with the reception it’s gotten in Eudora.

“Maybe the major attraction is that as we’ve gotten to know the people of Eudora; they have have seemed very interested in having our type of jobs,” said Snow, who has been in the community several times as part of the search process. “That’s playing a big role.”

As for the jobs, the company’s largest batch of workers would be skilled aluminum welders and technicians who can operate advanced computerized fabrication machines. Snow said he recently has had meetings with Lawrence-based Peaslee Tech and the vocational education program that is part of the Eudora public school district about their abilities to provide the needed workforce training in the area.

Management, engineering and quality-control positions also would be part of the project, as would several assembly and warehouse positions, Snow said.

The company is seeking the 10-year, 50% tax abatement through the issuance of about $8.3 million in industrial revenue bonds. At its Monday meeting, Eudora city commissioners approved a resolution of intent to issue the industrial revenue bonds. A study prepared by the city showed the city would get an estimated $2.58 in benefits for every $1 in property taxes it abates as part of the project over the next 10 years.

Matite said city leaders thought it was important to approve the first phase of the industrial revenue bond procedure even though the company hasn’t yet made a final decision to locate in Eudora.

“We wanted to show them that we are committed to making these investments, and the city of Eudora is serious about you being in our community,” Matite said.

If the deal does become finalized, keep an ear open for perhaps some larger scale industrial development talks to emerge in Eudora. Matite said the Modern Manufacturing deal would take the last large vacant lots in the Intech Business Park. But he said the community already has identified two sites, each at 100 acres or more, that could be the site for a future industrial park. One is just north of the existing Intech Business Park. The other basically is south of the business park, on the south side of Kansas Highway 10.

Such a project would require much more discussion, but Matite said the city has had general discussion with landowners of both sites as part of the city’s comprehensive planning process. He said it would be important for Eudora to stay in the industrial development market because he thinks the community has some competitive advantages, especially now that Kansas Highway 10 easily connects to Interstate 70 via the South Lawrence Trafficway.

“Plus, on comparing land prices, I think we might be a little more competitive than some other areas in the Kansas City metro,” Matite said. “And we have a commission that is willing to listen and work with businesses. They’re progressive and willing to work on ideas to make a project work.”


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