Makes good use of vacant building
Sutphen started leasing the property located at 49 N. Ludlow Road in July 2018. The new facility is expected to allow the company to expand the parts inventory and refurbish fire engines.
Research facility departure leaves building vacant
Howell Brothers Development built the North Ludlow Road facility in 2012 and then leased it to Pioneer.
DuPont Pioneer started operations in the building in December 2012 and the facility was used as a research center for corn and soybean seeds.
In June 2014, the facility closed.
Howell Brothers Development managing partner Terry Howell said the closure was a strategic decision made by upper management.
Following the departure of DuPont Pioneer, Champaign County Champaign Economic Partnership Economic Development Director Marcia Bailey said it was important to find a new tenant.
“There was a new building, substantial building not producing any community income,” Bailey said. “(Then Triad Superintendent) Chris (Piper) sent a letter of support saying that the largest income tax base that they have in the Triad district other than residents and agriculture is the pizza shop in North Lewisburg at that time. So it was critical for Triad’s budget because if somebody worked in that area then maybe they lived in the Triad district and that’s where some tax base would come from.”
Part of the challenge in finding another tenant was making sure the building was properly zoned to fit their needs. When the property was occupied by DuPont Pioneer, a conditional use permit had been granted allowing for an agricultural research facility.
Bailey said any company that showed interest in the property wanted to know if it was zoned appropriately and what the process to move in entailed.
“Between Terry and I, we probably had talked to five or six businesses that were interested but any of them would have to have conditional rezoning done,” Bailey said.
“If a big company like that wasn’t going to be in Ohio, who were we going to attract with that same kind of zoning request?”
“This was built specifically for Pioneer and we had a 10-year lease with Pioneer,” Howell said.
“They honored their end of the lease all the way through, but they were trying to sublease it to somebody else so for a while we weren’t in play.
They were doing this all directly and through a Realtor that they hired and they had some real interest, but timing is so critical on big companies when you’re making the decision, their timing didn’t work out so they did not get it subleased and so they ended up in the fall of 2016 paying us off.”
“In order to accommodate that move and the number of people and the size of the operation, the existing service operation that was on CountyLine Road, it made sense to move the commercial group into that building.” Bailey said Sutphen reached out to her and Howell, leading to a continued dialogue.
“Todd lives in Champaign County and some of the employees live here too and they’d drive by that building and keep looking at it,” Bailey said. “The more they looked at it externally the better it looked to them.
Terry and Todd talked a long time and a lot of times about how this could all work and then we went to their building on County Line Road and (Sutphen President) Drew Sutphen was on a teleconference with us and they were trying to decide how this could all work for them.”
Along with obtaining the proper conditional use permit, Howell said, there were renovations needed within the building including adding more doors, removing an over $50,000 cooler and adding overhead doors.
A conditional use permit for warehousing and light manufacturing was granted for Sutphen in October 2015.
Winnenberg said the company’s interest in Champaign County was due to the location.
Located north of the County Line Road facility, Winnenberg said, it allows the company to conduct recruiting in the Urbana, Marysville and Bellefontaine communities.
“We like the family feeling of Urbana,” Winnenberg said. “It’s a smaller community, it’s close-knit and that’s really what Sutphen is – it’s a family owned business and we want to make sure that we promote those family values and being a part of a smaller community like this we thought was advantageous.”
Another advantage for Sutphen was that the facility already was built and there was room for expansion.
“Howell Brothers Construction worked very hard to get us here,” Winnenberg said. “The community worked to allow us to change zoning so it all just kind of fell in place.”
Role of the new facility
The local facility will serve as a service, parts and refurbishment facility.
“There are fire departments from around the country that don’t want anyone to work on their trucks but Sutphen,” Winnenberg said. “Even though we have a dealer network around the country, they still want Sutphen to work on the vehicle. We have service operations here where we can accommodate that.
“We also have all of our part sales operations here so any vehicle that’s out there operating, if there’s a part or something that they need, that is all taken care of out of here. It’s all shipped out of here. Then we have the refurbishment or the reconditioning operation which is taking the older trucks and building them into new trucks and then we also have the warranty function here so all the warranty administration for new vehicles that are sold is administered here.”
Winnenberg added the training and tech support will also operate out of this facility.
“Training for all of our dealers, all the fire departments that buy our trucks from around the world can come here and this will be the main training facility for that,” Winnenberg said.
As part of the move, Winnenberg said, the facility will have 20 to 25 full-time employees.
A small crew started operating in the building last October and Winnenberg said the move was expected to be completed at the end of March.
Winnenberg said Sutphen is excited about the facility providing growth for the company and local community.
“We’re excited to be here,” Winnenberg said.
“We’re hiring – I’ve got in Springfield and Urbana right now probably close to 20 job openings, we pay very well, our benefits are outstanding.
It’s a family organization where you join the team and you’re truly part of a team your not a number at Sutphen.
“It’s a unique opportunity for certainly Champaign and the surrounding counties and having this facility I think is a nice draw. It’s very visible out here.”
Bailey said having Sutphen in the community adds to the diversity of manufacturing in Champaign County.
“There’s no two companies making the same product here and now we’ve got a division of fire truck production up here,” Bailey said. “I think to the community and anybody coming to the community can see we have a wide range of manufacturing so I think it gives us a leg up for other site selectors.”