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Calumet Electronics plans gradual expansion

Inside the newly expanded headquarters of Calumet Electronics the unmistakable sounds of construction continue unabated. Sawing, hammering, the bustle of raw materials and finished circuit boards being moved to the new wing of the building are all a part of the daily experience as much as the manufacturing of the vital components.

Vice President and Chief Operations Officer Todd Brassard says supply chains continue to be a hangup. Every once in a while you will pass a door without a knob, for example, and the company has been waiting on an elevator for months. Much of the work has been about providing some creature comforts as the old Calumet and Hecla roundhouse no longer has enough space to be a community gathering place and a factory. Brassard says Calumet Electronics is closing the gap quickly with Asian manufacturers at a time that domestic production has scaled back. The company is now on par with less than a handful of other locations in the country and has reaped the benefits of securing vital defense contracts, among several other industries.

Calumet Electronics has recently gotten approval for rezoning the old C&H machine shop to manufacturing, along with two surrounding parking lots. Brassard says there are certain processes that can utilize the building’s layout quite nicely, but it will be a long time before it hums to life again.

See, the problem with that, now that we have the building and we’ve had studies done on it…understand what it would take, is it would be very expensive. We have a vision of bringing this back into production, so what do we have to do the environmental remediation and structural stabilization? You can see it’s being held up by trees…

Holes in the roof have allowed for snow drifts to pile up in places. Sections of wall are supported by unrefined tree trunks, strapped in place as if they had always been growing there and the inside of the structure was a forest floor. Pigeons have made their homes in the attic rafters. Brassard’s vision is still years away from reality.

In the meantime, he talks about giving back to the community. Brassard says the company is impressed by the work being done by Leah Polzien and Main Street Calumet, with a limited budget. He expects to deepen ties between the two organizations. Brassard says there has already been a rush of development in recent years within the commercial district in the village, but more needs to be done.

He says that the company has proven it has the space to expand horizontally, something not possible for more urban competitors.

One of the things we’re always asked is, “What is your ability to expand? If we’re going to start buying from you and our business is growing, how are you going to expand too?” And we can say, “We’re not landlocked.” You look at a shop like ours in the city and it’s three stories. You’ve got an Ikea on one side, a Geico on the other, and a post office…they’re going nowhere.

Revitalizing downtown is the next step to helping Calumet Electronics become a destination employer for the best talent in the country.

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