Two area men are hoping to increase the production of medical personal protection equipment and will be using a long-vacant Napoleon building to do so.
During a special council meeting Monday night, council followed the unanimous recommendation of the Napoleon Planning Commission, which met 30 minutes earlier, to approve a conditional use permit to allow light manufacturing in a commercial area.
The Axis LED Group (ALG) of Defiance will be moving into the former Wal-Mart building on Oakwood Avenue, which has been vacant for 18 years, according to Napoleon Mayor Jason Maassel.
“We’re really excited to welcome this group here,” Maassel said.
He added the company is bringing machinery into its current Defiance location, but hopes to move into Napoleon within the next 45-60 days and get production started.
The plans are to eventually have 400-500 new jobs at the Napoleon facility, working three shifts.
Todd Yunker, originally of Swanton, was at the meeting Monday to represent the company as marketing head. The owner of the company, Adam Harmon, is from Defiance.
“I think the most important point that we can bring in is, we believe in this area, we believe in the work ethic this area brings and being able to bring a solution to a national problem and bring it locally is what we’re really trying to accomplish in all of this,” Yunker said.
The company initially would make N-95 masks, which have been in short supply since the COVID-19 pandemic began. However, Yunker said the company is not just addressing the national shortage, and that an expansion into other medical gear is possible.
“This is going to be a long-term, medical grade equipment that we’re going to supply,” Yunker said.
“We will start with four different kinds of masks,” Yunker said, adding the company would then like to expand into medical glove production.
“There’s only one other manufacturer of gloves in the United States, so we’d like to add that eventually,” he added.
Napoleon City Manager Joel Mazur said the jobs would be added in three phases.
“We’re actually really geared to add more growth in Napoleon right now, and now is a good time to add it,” Mazur said.
He added the housing sector is growing in Napoleon with the addition of a couple of new developments and the commercial sector is doing well.
“There’s more room for growth, also,” he added.
Council also Monday approved the plans and specifications for phase one of the improvements to American Road, where a new truck stop is currently being built and a farm implement business is being added.
The plans for the re-construction of the road, which will allow for more semi-truck traffic, will go out to bid. It is likely another special meeting of council will need to be called in order to award the bid in time.
Napoleon Public Works Director Chad Lulfs said the truck stop store would like to open in the spring and in order to make that happen construction on American Road would have to begin in the fall. The section to be rebuilt would be from Industrial Drive to Oakwood Avenue.
The overall project on American Road is expected to cost about $3 million, and there are a variety of funding sources being used, including grants, Tax Increment Financing and possibly private money.