An Ohio company that builds generators and small-horsepower engines for industrial users which run off natural gas and propane announced plans Thursday to open a plant in Hutchinson and eventually move its headquarters here.
eNGines-LPG LLC will employ five to 10 people its first year and hopes to employ up to 50 people within five years, company founder and president Matt Roeser said during an afternoon press conference at the Hutchinson / Reno County Chamber of Commerce office.
The family-owned and operated company has purchased the former Rainbo Bakery property on the corner of Third and Poplar for its plant.
The 72,000 square-foot building at 120 E. Third Ave., which covers nearly a half block, has been mostly vacant since 2004 when the bakery shut down.
Plans are to develop the property over seven or eight phases, Roeser said during a tour of the building, starting with a three-line assembly and quality control inspection in a 15,000 square-foot room that once served as a delivery truck service bay for the bakery.
A majority of the building will upgraded for warehousing and cross-dock storage, but expansions will also include offices, a showroom and a “maker space” for innovation for current and future products.
The company also envisions converting a portion of the building to allow other start-up entrepreneurs who are looking for manufacturing space to grow and develop their business there. The area may include 3D printers and CNC machines available for their use, Roeser said.
Hiring is expected to begin immediately for key positions, with support staffing ramping up in the first quarter of 2019.
Prospective employees should submit online resumes to email@example.com.
Roeser, 44, who attended K-State for two years and then earned his bachelor’s degree at LSU, started eNGine-LPG in Ohio in 2013, after designing an engine that is more environmentally friendly than traditional gas and diesel.
“I’ve been in generators (manufacturing) since 1999,” Roeser said. “I started with a company called Aggreko. I just learned from a bunch of different companies and in 2013 I had the opportunity to start my own. I went to my family and friends and got investment, and here we are five years later.”
“Protecting the environment, providing environmentally-safe engine solutions, is our passion and culture,” Roeser said. “eNGines-LPG is a concept to operate an engine which can run off both natural gas and propane fuels while maintaining the lowest emission output and below the U.S. EPA required standards.”
The capitalized NG and LPG in the company name stand for natural gas (NG) and propane or liquid petroleum gas (LPG).
The company makes a range of stationary engines, from 5- to 250-horsepower. They are used in many industrial applications, from generators to air compressors, but the oil and gas industry is one of its significant customers, Roeser said. It also builds portable generators.
Besides its plant in Munroe Falls, Ohio, which is about 20 miles north of Akron, the company has a plant in Minnesota and will soon be opening one in Tennessee. It also has a trucking subsidiary in Mansfield, Texas.
“Our intent is for Hutchinson to be our headquarters when we’re finally through with all the renovations,” Roeser said.
The Hutchinson property is composed of six separate though connected buildings on 1.16 acres, according to county property records.
The original 16,200-square foot bakery was built on the property in 1920 and operated as Bett’s Baking Co. for decades. Additional buildings were constructed in 1964 and 1974, county records show.
It was shuttered when Earthgrains Co., which owned Rainbo and was a subsidiary of Sarah Lee, moved its bakery operation from Hutchinson to Wichita in 2004.
The late Bob Boyd purchased the property in 2009 and remodeled what was once the Rainbo Bread Store next to the bakery into his real estate office.
The current office space will eventually be ripped out and converted into the showroom, Roeser indicated.
“Bob bought the bakery from Sara Lee exactly 10 years ago,” said his wife, Mary Jane Boyd, in an email to The News. “He put it in the name of his grandfather, William S. Green, who was an entrepreneur in Topeka. Bob’s intent was to hold it and maintain it in the hope of selling it to a manufacturing facility.”
“Finally, after 10 years, we – my son Rick and I – are accepting an offer,” she said. “It’s much lower than we had hoped but worth getting a small company in there with room to grow.”
The sale price wasn’t revealed, but the property was last appraised at $371,500, according to county property records. Roeser said finding a building that large and of that quality for such a reasonable price was a key to locating here. Such a building in Ohio, he said, would probably cost $5 million.
“Our goal was to find a building that was unique and that could handle our growth,” he said. “This will allow us to do those things we want to do, plus have some flux space, whether it’s warehousing or entrepreneurial space. It’s very difficult to find a building of this size in a downtown location anywhere in the United States. It’s a unique opportunity.”
Hutchinson’s central location in the U.S. for shipping and eventually its operational headquarters was also a big selling point, Roeser said.
The city, county and state have all offered incentives to help bring the business to Hutchinson, but officials declined to give specifics until contracts are finalized.
“They are based on performance, on the number of jobs created and other criteria the county has established,” said Abby Stockebrand, economic development manager at the chamber.
The county’s policy pays a set amount per job created, with the amount based on the wages paid. The city’s incentives, Stockebrand said, will mirror the counties.
The state incentives that are potentially available for the company to tap, said Alicia Janesko Hutchings, of the Kansas Department of Commerce, include personal property tax exemptions, machinery and equipment property and sales tax exemptions, corporate income tax credits, as well as training grants.
“Since March, Greater Hutch, the economic development division of the Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce, worked in concert with the Kansas Department of Commerce, City of Hutchinson, and Reno County to help attract eNGines-LPG to Hutchinson”, Debra Teufel, Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber president and CEO said during the announcement.
“We are excited to welcome eNGines-LPG to Hutchinson,” she said. “Their entrepreneurial spirit and company culture will be a great addition to the Reno County business community.”
When they first learned of the site search from the state, it was dubbed “Project Home,” Teufel said. That was because Roeser and his wife, Monica, are both from Kansas, with her parents still living in Wichita and his in Junction City.
Their families, including the Roeser’s two children, attended the press conference.
The Roeser’s looked at three buildings on their first visit to Hutchinson, ending with the bakery, which was followed by a visit to Salt City Brewing, Teufel said.
They paid another visit in August “for a deeper dive,” when they met with city and workforce development officials, and got a tour of the Hutchinson Career and Technical Education Academy at Hutchinson High, which has a diesel engine training program.
They looked at a half-dozen sites, including some in other states, before deciding on Hutchinson, Roeser said.
“Our family roots drew us to Kansas, but what ultimately attracted us to Hutchinson was the culture of the community,” Roeser said. “Your hospitality, sincere approach and desire to assist in our vision for growth was evident from our first visit.”