Council approves loan for start-up pump, compressor maker

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – Three former Thomas Industries management personnel are looking to launch a compressor manufacturing firm of their own in Plymouth.

They got a boost Tuesday when the City Council approved a $140,000 revolving loan to their company, TruNorth Components Inc.

“I’ve had people tell me you can’t run a successful business in Wisconsin, but I absolutely don’t believe that,” Jim Gartman, president of the new company, told the council.

Thomas, a long-time fixture in Sheboygan, was sold to Gardner Denver Inc. in 2005 and that company consolidated all of its production in Louisiana in 2009, Revolving Loan Committee chairman Mel Blanke told the council.

Gartman and his partners, Chris Schneider and Kevin Meyer, opted not to go south when Thomas closed. Instead, they are looking to start a similar business here.

“They’ve got a lot of experience and are aiming at a very targeted market,” Blanke said. TruNorth will start with about nine jobs and hopes to grow from there, he added.

“We prefer to buy from local firms that are privately held and we prefer to sell to local firms that are privately held,” Gartman explained.

He said they will build mid-sized compressors and vacuum pumps for sale to original equipment manufacturers. The company is currently leasing space from Glacier Transit and Storage in the former Gilson Bros. Building on Sunset Drive.

Gartman said their first customer will be a company in Waunakee that manufactures water softening equipment, including units for Culligan. “This company buys 240 units a month, every month,” he related.

TruNorth identified a half dozen potential customers in Wisconsin, New York, Texas and Japan who manufacture everything from brake assist systems for emergency vehicles to food machines, wastewater treatment systems and plasma cutters.

“They are really committed to this,” Blanke said of the TruNorth partners, noting that they had committed a substantial amount of their own money to the new company. “They have a lot of skin in the game.”

Blanke said the loan would be a typical revolving loan, with interest starting at 2 percent and increasing 1 percent a year over the 10-year term.

The city recently received several repayments to the revolving loan fund, providing enough cash to make the TruNorth loan, City Clerk/ Treasurer Patty Huberty said.

“I congratulate you on starting a new business and I want to indicate my pleasure that you’re doing it here in Plymouth. That’s what we need here,” Alderperson David Williams told the three TruNorth partners.

In other action, the council approved an increase in the late fee for dog licenses to $30 from $10 and an increase in the street use permit fee to $25 from $15.

Huberty said the increases reflected the cost to the city in both cases.

“There were 90 dogs that (police) officers had to go door-to-door to get compliance,” with the dog license requirement last year, she explained.

“It’s important for the public to understand the considerable amount of staff time put into getting people to license their dogs,” Alderperson John Nelson agreed. “We need to cover the staff time for these fees.”

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