Custom Engineered Wheels Inc. has decided to stay in northeastern Mississippi to rebuild and expand a business there destroyed by fire in June.
The company plans to invest $13 million in a new operation in Baldwyn, about 20 miles away from Tupelo, where it ran a plastic wheel factory until an equipment fire on June 23 led to the plant’s closure. The investment is about equal to the value of injection molding machines and other equipment lost in the accident, in which no one was injured.
CEW, based in Warsaw, Ind., injection molded small wheels, mainly for lawn and garden equipment in Tupelo. The Baldwyn facility with 192,000 square feet is more than five times the size of the former Tupelo plant. CEW will restart in Baldwyn early next year.
“This is a good location for a workforce,” said Leon Hays, executive director of the Prentiss County Development Association in a phone interview. Workers in the area have knowledge-based skills not fully tapped since some businesses moved offshore in the 1990s. Highway 45 nearby runs the length of the state, making it easy for workers to commute in the Tupelo-Baldwyn region, Hays indicated.
Prentiss County and the city of Baldwyn are providing tax abatements worth $2.3 million over 10 years for the CEW project. About 20 new jobs will be created to add to the 65-employee base from the former operation. The Tennessee Valley Authority also is providing assistance.
“Mississippi’s support in assisting Custom Engineered Wheels rebuilding locally after a tragic fire has been critical to our employees, our customers and the company as a whole,” noted CEW President Jason Peters in a news release. “The opportunity Mississippi has helped provide to maintain our skilled workforce and build upon the significant capital investment is critical to the company’s long term success.”
CEW’s head office plant in Warsaw does injection molding, lost core molding, profile extrusion and assembly. The company also has a polyurethane foam, injection molding and lost-core molding plant in Reynosa, Mexico. CEW’s injection molding sales, its main revenue stream, were $43.5 million for 2015, according to Plastics News data. It operated more than 30 presses that year.
Baldwyn’s population of about 3,300 counts several industrial businesses in the area, including PUR foam producer FXI, a supplier to local furniture factories. CEW will take possession of a former furniture facility owned by Southern Motion, which moved nearby to accommodate its own expansion. FXI too is expanding in Baldwyn, partly because of new business in the healthcare industry. FXI, based in Media, Pa., runs about 18 PUR foam plants throughout the United States to be near customers.
CEW’s injection presses have clamp forces up to 1,100 tons. It molds high density polyethylene, polypropylene, nylon, thermoplastic elastomer, PVC and carbon fiber composites. Its solid plastic wheels and tires are sold to a wide variety of industries. In addition to wheels, CEW does custom injection molding. It claims to be one of the largest custom polyurethane wheel manufacturers in the world. Its custom profile extrusion business offers coextrusion technology to process acrylics, ABS, PVC and polyolefins into profiles, rods and shapes. Davis-Standard is its main extrusion equipment supplier.
The CEW operation in Tupelo was part of Spartech Corp. until it was sold to a private equity in 2009.