APT Manufacturing Solutions is based in Hicksville, in an area that more and more customers identify as a bright spot on the map.
The 100-plus-employee company, founded in Defiance County 20 years ago as a machine shop, has seen its cutting-edge solutions installed at operations from Canada to Europe to Israel. And it continues to find the business climate in Northwest Ohio conducive for competing globally.
“This year, we invested $1 million in our facilities in Hicksville in order to stay ahead of the growth we project for APT over the next few years,” says Anthony Nighswander, APT’s president and co-founder, who purchased the company outright in 2013. “We also committed to adding 20 jobs in partnership with the village to complete an expansion of the industrial park in Hicksville. To date, we have hired the 20 skilled trades positions that we committed to and are gearing up to hire more.”
The company provides solutions in automation, gage and fixture, fabrication and machining. Nighswander says it’s “right in the middle” of the overall boost in US manufacturing. “As manufacturing grows, we grow too,” he says. “Much of the automation growth is happening as a direct result of manufacturers re-shoring their operations.”
For APT, the right shore continues to be Defiance County.
“We have compared Defiance County to other locations at times to be sure we are in the right location for our business, but the county and state have always made sure that we are here to stay,” Nighwswander says.
‘Hard to Leave’
One yardstick for measuring an area’s future growth is infrastructure improvement. Defiance County continues to hit the mark, including the recently improved “Fort to Port” Highway 24 expansion to Interstate-quality four-lane between nearby Toledo and Fort Wayne, Ind. Road improvements around the APT site were needed for its expansion to go forward, and in early 2015 received $150,000 in state funding. Toledo Edison made $2 million in substation investments in summer 2015 to enhance reliability and prepare the system for potential future load growth.
But it’s people power that continues to drive projects from APT and other companies, including Hillandale Farms in Hicksville ($41 million, 65 jobs) and valve-train engine part manufacturer GT Technologies in Defiance ($23 million, 15 jobs). Other investors include polymer firm Standridge Color Corp. and metal door manufacturer Stoett Industries, both in Defiance, and B&B Molded Products, now moving 120 jobs from a neighboring county to the City of Defiance, where there’s a new facility and room to grow even bigger.
B&B is taking advantage of a new City of Defiance Energy Special Improvement District to finance energy savings features. “The most impressive thing is that the county economic development office, the city administration and the city council all worked in unison to make this deal happen,” says Don Gillett, B&B president.
B&B, like APT, benefits from the reshoring trend, as the company demonstrates that flexibility, quick turnaround and automation can make the US — especially this part of the US — preferable to China. The results so far? More than 10.2 million units returned to domestic production.
“In this part of the world, the people are unique,” says Gillett. “We compete with China by working hard and working smart. Our people are incredibly flexible at working different jobs and doing different things on a day-to-day basis. You try to create an environment where you can harness that energy, and it’s a win-win for everybody.”
APT’s Anthony Nighswander finds the same people advantage at his shop.
“I can tell you, the people in Defiance County would make it hard to leave. You won’t find harder working people than you find here. We view our people as a competitive advantage because we can complete projects that companies from other areas wouldn’t even take on. The people here rally around the community, working hard and making this area a great place to raise their families.”
Some of those family members are involved in a new high school training center where students gain college credit for spending two hours per day in APT’s facility. Nighswander says Defiance County’s economic development team worked closely with his team to develop the center, which is supported by the Defiance County Board of Commissioners, Northwest State Community College, Hicksville Local Schools and Central Local Schools.
Moreover, he says, the county’s economic development staff, led by Jerry Hayes, “has ensured that we stay on top of state funding opportunities, and that we aren’t alone as we step out and invest money to grow our business.”
This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of Defiance County Economic Development.