By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
It took nearly two years, but Royal Technologies president Jim Vander Kolk could not be happier with his Michigan-based company’s expansion into the Cullman area.
“Several years ago, we talked as an organization about how to sustain our business for the next 50 years,” Vander Kolk told nearly 50 local officials, business leaders and politicians gathered Thursday morning to celebrate the opening of the new facility. “That comes by growing our business, and we knew to do that, we’d have to expand and locate outside of east Michigan. During the process, we were courted by many communities, and given the red carpet treatment and shown a lot of packages and incentives — and I want to thank the many people here that helped work on the Cullman package.”
The new 200,000-square-foot Royal Technologies plant is located at the corner of Alabama Highways 157 and 278, and will function as a manufacturing facility for injection molding, urethane foam and light assembly parts for office furniture and interior trim for automobiles. The project was first announced in February 2009, and construction was completed about a month ago.
Now a few weeks into operation, Royal Technologies employs just under 50 people — though projections anticipate that number could grow to around 200 next year.
“The things that contribute to our success are the values of success, and those are the fibers that make up our community,” Vander Kolk said. “That became the bull’s-eye for the target of where we wanted to locate, and that’s what led us to locate in Cullman ... It has been less than two years, and now we’re already shipping product out our doors, and we have big plans for Cullman.”
Bob Smith, with the Alabama Development Office, said Royal Technologies should make an excellent industrial partner for the community.
“Just before the announcement in February of last year, Peggy [Smith, with Cullman Economic Development Agency] called wanting to set up an appointment to talk with Gov. Bob Riley and Royal, and tell him personally what they were wanting to do,” he said. “That was a little unusual, but it was because they care that much about their employees, and how they will fit into the community. That makes them an unusual company in a very good way.”
Rep. Jeremy Oden (R-Eva) spoke on behalf of the local legislative delegation, and commended Vander Kolk for having the initiative to try and grow in the sluggish economy.
“It’s companies like this, taking a step out, that are going to prosper and turn this economy around,” he said. “It’s so great to see a company come in, and a community come together ... Hopefully, we’ll see even more companies come in and grow, and those that are here reinvest.”
Raymond Williams, chair of the Cullman County Industrial Development Board, said the opening signifies a renewed spirit of cooperation among local leaders to work for the betterment of the area.
“This project is an example of what can happen when two industrial boards really work together,” he said. “On behalf of both the city and county industrial development boards, we’d like to thank you from bringing quality jobs to the city and county.”
Cullman Mayor Max Townson said he is excited about the opening, and recounted the impression he came away with after his first trip to Michigan to visit Royal Technologies headquarters.
“The first thing I noticed was a flag that said stewardship, and that’s what you get with Royal,” he said. “This is a company that really wants to be a part of this community.”
‰ Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.