NM lands new industry; Orthopedic firm to locate on Beckley Street

By David Fenker

NORTH MANCHESTER -- As many as 60 new jobs will come to North Manchester in the next four years.
Precision Medical Technologies announced Nov. 30 plans to open its third location on Beckley Street in North Manchester.

“We thought the setting was right for us in Wabash County, and especially North Manchester. We liked the idea of a small town, and are hoping to employ a few folks that live in that town,” co-owner Jeff Thornburgh said.

Thornburgh and his partner, Precision Medical Technologies President Kurt Kamholz, co-founded the company in Warsaw in 2003 as a contract manufacturer of orthopedic instruments.

“We do a lot of work in spine, extremities and trauma. Our niche is high-tolerance, small components,” Thornburgh said.

The Warsaw plant makes implants, such as screws, plates and rods.

The company expanded to Rome City in 2014, with an instrument division.

Beginning in early 2018, North Manchester will be home to the company's disposable surgical equipment plant.

“Manchester is starting with disposable instruments, which is kind of a new segment for us,” Thournburgh said. “Disposable instruments are oftentimes used in ambulatory surgical centers, where you're not at the hospital and the surgical procedure you're having is rather minor, so the cost of surgery is less.”

“The physicians, rather than wanting to re-sterilize and reuse their instrument, they're just disposable. It actually lowers the risk of infection, and is more cost-effective... it's a growing market right now.”

North Manchester’s appeal
According to North Manchester Town Manager Adam Penrod, town and county officials have been working with Precision Medical Technologies since May.

“We had our initial meeting in May, and from there I brought Keith Gillenwater in from Grow Wabash County – he's been a great help with the project – and we've just been working on it ever since,” Penrod said.

“In June, we started looking around the community on different buildings that they could fit into. It wasn't only North Manchester – they were looking at others in the state. They were looking at another location in northern Indiana, they were looking at another location in Ohio, and they also looked in Wabash. Of all the places, they picked North Manchester.”

Part of the appeal of North Manchester was the proximity of Heartland Career Center, which provides technical training to both area high school students and adults.

“We were looking for a location that would have a little pocket of CNC (computer numerical control) operators,” Thornburgh said.

“So, we looked at three or four different geographical areas, and Wabash County has the available individuals. Secondly, we're very impressed with the training programs and training center in Wabash County, that provides technical training for students and adults.”

Penrod elaborated on the workforce situation, noting that the number of orthopedic manufacturers in Warsaw seem to have led to a shortage of skilled laborers there and that Heartland's training made Wabash County a more attractive option.

“Really, what helped sell North Manchester and Wabash County was the Heartland Career Center. They've got, in partnership with Grow Wabash County, free training right now with a grant that they received,” he said.

“That was a really huge selling point to Jeff and Kurt and their company. They would like to have that pipeline of CNC machinists.”

Keith Gillenwater, president and CEO of Grow Wabash County, noted that Grow Wabash County and Heartland are utilizing a grant from the Indiana Office of Rural and Community Affairs that targets CNC machining, welding and industrial maintenance technology to provide Wabash County residents with industry recognized certification.

“[Heartland] is a great asset for Wabash County and our employer base, and we use this incredible asset to our advantage.  We know the competition for skilled workers is tough, so being able to create a workforce that has been trained on your machinery, in your skillsets, that can come in at age 18, 19, 20 or whatnot and be ready to work is a huge competitive advantage. We have been training workers that could potentially work in these jobs for the last 12 months and will be for the next 12 months as well,” he said.

Gillenwater said that Grow Wabash County also assisted Precision Medical Technologies with research via advertisements for the positions they intend to hire as a way to gauge the potential workforce availability.

“For a period this spring/summer, we conducted workforce recruitment tests for them via ads in the local newspapers, social media, Indiana Career Connect, and to see what kind of response we would receive to test workforce availability and whether the needed skillsets existed and were available, which came back very positively. We also connected them with Heartland Career Center to create a connection for future internships,” he said.

This research brought in nearly 150 CNC machinist applications alone from the Wabash County area, according to Penrod.

Thornburgh said that Precision Medical Technologies plans to bring on 25-30 employees during the North Manchester plant's first year, and add another 15-20 in the next couple years after that.

“There's an opportunity for interested folks to send us a resume or a note of interest if they'd like to work for us. If they don't want to travel to warsaw, which is our main office, they can do it online, or if they want to come to our Warsaw office to fill out an application and will gladly take their resume,” he said.

That website is, and has a place to submit resumes as well as contact information for the Warsaw plant.

According to Thornburgh, Precision Medical Technologies will offer employees wages and benefits on par with other area orthopedic manufacturers.

“Our benefits package is pretty strong, with medical insurance, life insurance and accidental death/dismemberment, short term disability, long-term disability, 401(k) plan, vacation and of course holidays,” he said.

Penrod noted that, while other area manufacturers are also looking for employees, he feels that Precision Medical Technologies's offerings will attract prospective employees of a different skill set.

“I think they're a little different, with it being high-paying jobs. I think the average wage is like $45,000 a year, so with that I think that they'll get a different skill set. The training's available, if people want to take advantage of that, down at Heartland, to feed into that,” he said.

Precision Medical Technologies will begin renovations on the 9,000-square-foot former Eagles building, located at 400 Beckley St., in the next few weeks.

“We'd like to have at least one or two machines in the building by March 1 if we can,” Thornburgh said.

“That building is older, but it is a metal manufacturing building with heat going the right way. We're hoping in future years to add floor space to that building, the backside of it, to increase our manufacturing square footage. The building is suitable for that.”

According to Penrod, the town assisted with the purchase of the facility.

“[The research] had a great response, so we went ahead and got the building secured – 400 Beckley Street – and helped them work with the purchase agreement. From there, we got a purchase price set for the back lot. We had a phase one and phase two environmental on the building, to make sure that there wasn't anything that in the future would come up,” he said.

Penrod noted that local contractor DT Construction will be working on the facility's renovation.

“It's kind of rough looking, but we'll make it look better when it's all said and done,” Thornburgh said.

“Being a medical machine shop, we've got to look very clean and bright and shiny inside. So, any building we'd have to put a lot of money into floors and walls to look pretty top-drawer.”

When asked about the closed railroad crossing at Fourth and Beckley streets near the building, Penrod said that the town does not have plans to reopen it. He said that Norfolk Southern worked with the town to close the crossing due to its dangerous nature, and that Precision Medical Technologies would have access to the building's loading docks off Fourth Street.

According to the company's press release about the move, Precision Medical Technologies is investing nearly $5 million in the expansion. This, combined with the number of high-wage jobs being offered, led to nearly $500,000 in state credits and grants.

The release states that the Indiana Economic Development Corporation offered the company conditional tax credits of up to $430,000, as well as up to $45,000 in training grants, which Thornburgh plans to use.

“If I could find some experienced machinists, that would be the best scenario, but we're also willing to take young folks that have good math skills and are hard workers and train them as machinists,” he said.

The Town of North Manchester is also looking to offer financial incentives to Precision Medical Technologies. On the agenda for the town council's Dec. 6 meeting is a tax abatement package, which Penrod said the company more than qualifies for.

“They qualify almost twofold from what they need, so anyway that we can help out them to give them a good start,” he said.

“It's really to help their business, because the first several years you're business is going to have the most expenses just getting up and going, so you're trying to help minimize their impact and get them going, and then as it comes off, they're up in production, they're running efficiently.”

Gillenwater noted that Grow Wabash County worked with both the town and the state to help get Precision Medical Technologies incentives to move to North Manchester.

“The state is very supportive of businesses growing and expanding here in Indiana, particularly those new opportunities that pay higher wages and require additional skill sets, and we wanted to leverage as many programs as we could to have this project make sense for them and be attractive to do here in Wabash County & the Town of North Manchester,” he said.

If approved, the abatement will lower the company's property taxes for 10 years, with the rate at which they are discounted decreasing until the company pays the full rate in 2028. At that point, Penrod said, they can reapply for the abatement with the town council.

'A win for the town'
Penrod characterizes the new industrial growth as “a win for the town.”

“I think the days of looking for that several hundred job [employer] might be hard to come by – never say never, but I think if we can get these wins of local companies expanding to add jobs, retain the jobs that are here, and look for these, I call them pretty good employment companies of 60-70 is a good win. If we can keep getting those, I think that fits well for the community and shows economic growth,” he said.

“It's a great win for the community.”

He noted that Thornburgh and Kamholz have already indicated that they will be active in town activities.

“That's one thing they told me; I welcomed them and thanked them for picking us, and they said anything we can do to help the town, let us know. So, I think that's great to bring them in town. It just shows a lot of the community as a whole what we're viewed as from others outside,” he said.

Thornburgh credits Penrod for welcoming the company to North Manchester.

“We really think Adam Penrod has done an outstanding job of helping us be comfortable with North Manchester,” he said.

“About four or five months ago when we first contacted him, he was very responsive and gave us his full attention, helping us to find a suitable building in North Manchester to work with. He deserves a lot of credit for us (coming here).”

Posted on 2017 Dec 05