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Ken Garner Manufacturing breaks ground in Victoria

By ALLISON MILES
Dec. 19, 2013 at 6:19 a.m.

Bill Johnston, construction manager with Lauger Companies, describes the incoming Ken Garner Manufacturing Plant to Kristi Dujka, incoming president and CEO with Associated Builders and Contractors. The plant, a $10 million investment, will sit at about 50,000 square feet.

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For more information about Ken Garner Manufacturing, visit kgarnermfg.com or call 888-454-7207.

In business suits and with shovels in hand, a group of men prepared to break ground on Victoria's incoming Ken Garner Manufacturing plant.

There was just one catch.

The soft ground on which they took Thursday's ceremonial first dig wasn't the plant's future home.

"We'll actually be going in over there, directly across from Caterpillar," Ken Garner Jr., the company's president, said with a gesture across the street. "But with the construction going on, we couldn't get there."

Dirt work began Monday for the incoming plant going in at 203 Wayne Watkins Drive, said Craig Lauger, president of Lauger Companies, the project's contractor.

Once complete, it will produce filled counterweights - essentially steel cans filled with heavy concrete - to properly balance Caterpillar's cranes and excavators.

"It's very, very exciting," he said. "We've worked on this almost a year. We're blessed they chose us."

The plant's first phase will sit at about 50,000 square feet, and the company hopes to finish about fall of next year, said John Garner, project engineer with Ken Garner Manufacturing. At that point, management will begin looking for workers.

He said the plant is designed for about 30 workers, with two shifts.

The company's initial investment rings in at about $10 million, Ken Garner Jr. said, but that could increase down the road if other processes enter the mix.

He said the plant chose Victoria - and specifically that location - because of its proximity to Caterpillar.

"The product we make is very heavy," he explained. "Freight is an issue with our component more than others."

Caterpillar picks its business allies based upon their values, principles, ethics and commitment to quality, said John Jones, site manager at Victoria's Caterpillar plant. At the same time, he said, it's also important that those partners give back to the community and work to contribute to both its prosperity and sustainability.

"These guys share those values," Jones said Thursday morning. "So, we look forward to having you as part of the family here in Victoria."

The manufacturing plant was a project years in the works, said Dale Fowler, president of the Victoria Economic Development Corp. While he said he first met the company in 2010, it was the following year when he ventured to Chattanooga, Tenn. for a look at its headquarters.

"It's exciting to see the culmination of years of work and relationship building," he said.

The company not only marks the first parts manufacturer ushered into Victoria because of Caterpillar, Fowler said, but also the first to set down roots in Lone Tree Business Park No. 2.

That ongoing development wouldn't be possible without the foresight and planning city and county leaders bring to the table, he said.

"Our promise to the company is that, once they're here, there will be a continuing partnership," he said. "We want them to continue to grow and flourish in our community."

Community leaders such as Victoria County Judge Don Pozzi and Victoria Mayor Paul Polasek welcomed Ken Garner Manufacturing to the Crossroads, and so did Lewis Neitsch.

Still, the president of the Victoria Sales Tax Development Corp. didn't end his message there. Jokingly, he encouraged the economic development team not to rest on their laurels.

"I was counting the lots myself," he said with a smile of the business park. "And I said, 'Well Dale, you've only got about six or seven more to go."

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