Ga.-Based Sheet-Metal Box Maker Plans New Plant in Kansas

Rossville-based Curbs Plus Inc. is undertaking a major expansion as its readies to open a new plant in Kansas. "At the end of January, we'll be making product," said company President Steve Jensen about the El Dorado, Kan., site.

The company, which started in 1996, makes the steel and aluminum sheet-metal boxes on which sit heating and air-conditioning units atop commercial and industrial buildings.

Mr. Jensen said the business expects to hire up to 20 people the first year at the Kansas location. In five years, he hopes employment can grow at the plant located just outside Wichita to 50 to 60 people.

In Rossville, the company employs about 86 workers, he said. In the busy warmer months, the Carline Road plant has well over 100 employees on the job, the official said.

Privately held Curbs Plus has 50,000 square feet at its Rossville facility, where it expects sales to have hit about $11 million in 2004, up from about $9 million the year before, Mr. Jensen said.

"We've grown extremely fast. We've had to control growth," he said.

Ken Herrick, the company's vice president of manufacturing and a partner in the business, said 2004 was a year of dealing with sharply higher steel and fuel prices along with soaring health care costs.

Grappling with the volatility of steel and fuel prices will be an issue in 2005, he said.

"I couldn't tell you what steel and fuel will be next summer," said Mr. Herrick.

Building in Kansas will get the company closer to West Coast customers, but still not too far from the eastern part of the country, Curbs Plus officials said.

Marc Brower, another partner in the business, said locating a facility in Kansas helps with freight.

"I think it can open doors for us," he said, adding the company is about maxed out at its original Rossville location.

Mr. Jensen said there "has been a lot of prayer about this move in Kansas." The company has purchased a building and 14 acres, he said. A team of workers from the Rossville facility are at the new location, Mr. Jensen said.

"Everyone there is top notch," he said.

Mr. Jensen said service is probably the No. 1 factor that separates the business from its competitors.

"We can turn something out the same day if needed," said the 43-year-old company president. He said he sees curb adapters as a potential company growth market, enabling businesses to replace air conditioning units without cutting into a roof.