Goshen News, Goshen, IN

September 29, 2012

Metal processing plant going up in Middlebury


MIDDLEBURY — A metal fabricating company will open a new factory in Middlebury near the end of the year.

Champagne Metals, based in Glenpool, Okla. near Tulsa, will begin Monday building an 80,000-square-foot factory that will house modern aluminum processing equipment.

“This machine we are putting in goes from a quarter inch to 80 inches wide,” said Mike Champagne, president and chief executive officer of the company. “It will handle our pontoon business.”

Champagne and his wife Kim founded the company 25 years ago.

“My wife and I started our business out of our living room and started selling metal before we had trucks,” he said with a laugh.

The company supplies niche aluminum products to manufacturers throughout the United States and Canada. Many of those customers are based in Elkhart County, according to Champagne, and the new plant will service those customers as well as ones in Canada and along the East Coast.

“Elkhart has some of the best customers we have ever seen,” Champagne said. He added that some of those customers asked for a closer presence from the company and that prompted the construction of the new plant.

“Everyone’s inventory should go down,” he said of how the plant will impact just-in-time deliveries to local aluminum users.

Champagne said the location just north of the Indiana Toll Road north of Middlebury on Greenfield Industrial Parkway is also ideal for serving the company’s customers in Detroit and Chicago.

“We kind of picked a similar spot in Tulsa between Dallas and Kansas City and we service the heck out of our people here,” Champagne said by phone from his headquarters. “We go to those major markets every day.”

The company operates its own fleet of delivery trucks. The present operation in Middlebury has two or three trucks and a couple more will be added, he said.

Raw aluminum will arrive in Middlebury by truck straight from Alcoa plants, Champagne said. To accommodate delivery, the company is working with state and Middlebury officials on possibly improving road access to the plant.

The company has about 11 employees in the county right now, Champagne said, and once the new plant begins operating at the end of December or in early January, hiring will increase. There may be up to 40 employees by the end of 2013.

Champagne had continual praise for the people of Middlebury, Elkhart County and state officials he has worked with to get the factory started. “They are great people to work with and that is why we are coming there,” he said. “There’s not a lot of people investing money right now and we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t think these are good people to work with. We think it’s a good investment.”