Trelleborg, a $3.6 billion Swedish-based company that once considered moving its St. Francois County operations to another state, opened a new 17,800-square-foot extension of its pipe seals manufacturing facility during a special ceremony and ribbon cutting held Thursday morning at its Bonne Terre Industrial Park site.

The company’s Parkland pipe seal operation is a supplier of new and rehabilitation sealing solutions for concrete, plastic pipes and manhole pipes used for water, sewerage and drainage across the globe.

Attending the event were members of the St. Francois County Industrial Development Authority (IDA); Southeast Missouri Regional Planning Commission (RPC); St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Madison and Iron county commissions; as well as representatives of the subsidiary, Trelleborg Pipe Seals; and members of the Bonne Terre Chamber of Commerce, who oversaw the ribbon cutting.

Emceeing Thursday’s ceremony was Kevin Cook, IDA vice president and president of First State Community Bank in Bonne Terre, who asked IDA President Al Sullivan to speak to the approximately 50 people in attendance.

Sullivan offered thanks to several organizations that assisted IDA in the Trelleborg expansion, as well as other local projects.

“We’ve worked with the city of Bonne Terre on this facility and other projects over the last years,” he said. “I also want to recognize [RPC Executive Director] Chauncy Buchheit and his staff today because they are a 50/50 partner with us in this facility and we couldn’t have done it without them. We’re deeply appreciative. The Bonne Terre Chamber of Commerce has also been very cooperative and I want to thank them. First State Community Bank has sponsored today and we appreciate that.

“Sometimes in economic development, we rush out and we’re anxious to get new businesses, new businesses and new businesses. But one of the things that is often overlooked is working with expansion of existing businesses and helping them grow. Seven or more years ago, this company was going to leave the county because it just didn’t have the facilities and they were having trouble finding facilities.

“We were able to help locate them in 20,000 square feet of warehouse and office space over here. Seven years later, we have doubled their warehouse space and they have tripled their employment. This is how important it is that we give attention to working with and expanding existing businesses, as well as attracting businesses.”

Long-time RPC Director Buchheit, who will soon be entering retirement, spoke about the various organizations and public entities he has worked alongside with on projects through the years.

“Al talked about the partnership,” he said. “The RPC could not exist without its partners — who are a lot of the guys in this room here — the county commissions, the cities and all of the businesses and the chambers and the folks that we work with at IDAs. It’s a tremendous partnership to help bring about economic development. We thank you all so much for the involvement and letting us be involved.

“I’ve been with the commission about 38 years now and I remember working with the city of Bonne Terre back when we started. Many of the folks in this room, we’ve had a good, long relationship with in trying to help bring businesses into the communities. The cities’ Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District helped to bring financing to make facilities like this possible — so, we certainly appreciate all your help and the fact that you let us be involved is just tremendous. We thank you for that.”

Rob Brockway, Trelleborg Pipe Seals director of operations, spoke highly of the workforce the company has found in the Parkland.

He said, “I’ll come down to this area — and I’ve never really noticed the pattern — but I’ll often say to my wife, ‘You know, I really met a great person. I had a problem with something, they helped me get it figured out.’ One time she said, ‘You know, you say that every time you come back.' I thought that is something I should pass on to the group today.

“It’s just a great work ethic down here and just a really nice style and approach. I just never run into someone who says, ‘It’s not my problem.’ I always run into people who say, ‘Let me do a little checking. Let me see if I can help you solve that.’ It’s a wonderful attribute that you guys bring — both the work ethic and, if you look at a map, about half of the radius around our company in New England is ocean. There are no customers in the ocean.

“You guys are right in the center and you’ve got customers all over the place. And if we draw a radius around you, a day’s shipping time covers a huge percentage of our country. So, that is something that has been a really good thing for us. One of the things that was really interesting for me is that — back in 2011 — we move into this space and we think, ‘Boy, this is more space than we really need.’

“[Plant Manager, Ed Sutton], I think you were probably really surprised at how much empty space you had, but because you guys are in such a good location, that didn’t last very long. It kept coming up as, ‘We’ve got this product that we’ve got to inventory. Hey, let’s do it down here!’ So, I know when I came down here about four years ago, we had no space — no room. The challenge for us was, ‘OK, what are we going to do? How are we going to grow?’”

Brockway described Buchheit as “just fantastic” to work with and expressed his appreciation for the RPC assisting the company in considering different options to expand its space.

“So, when I stand here today and see what we came up with, I’m really blown away,” he said.

Also speaking at the event were Bonne Terre City Administrator Jim Eaton and Trelleborg Pipe Seals Finance Director Robert Peacock.

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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