THE ELKHART TRUTH • 4/15/2011
ELKHART – The story of the excitement created by a new business coming to town and promising new jobs is familiar in Elkhart County.
Now an Elkhart company is stirring that same enthusiasm in an economically-struggling Virginia town.
Genesis Products Inc., a supplier of wood to the recreational vehicle industry, has acquired a furniture component maker, Appomattox River Manufacturing Co. in Keysville, Va. Terms of the purchase were not disclosed.
Jon Wenger, CEO of Genesis, said obtaining Appomattox will put the Elkhart business closer to its customers in the Southeastern section of the country. In particular, it will reduce freight costs and enable Genesis to secure long-term relationships with clients in that region.
For Charlotte County, Va., home to Keysville, the acquisition means Appomattox, described as a good corporate citizen, will not only continue to operate but also bring new investment and new jobs to an area that has an unemployment rate of 9.6 percent.
“We are really fortunate that Garet Bosiger (former owner of Appomattox) and the two Jons (Wenger and Genesis president Jon Helmuth) were able to make this connection,” said Susan Adams, Charlotte County economic development associate. “We are very confident they are going to be a very successful business here in the county. We have a lot of respect for them because they are smart young men.”
Charlotte County relied on tobacco crops for its economic well-being until the dramatic changes in that industry forced the area to diversify into corn, soybeans and wheat, Adams said.
Also, manufacturing is coming back but the county is still hurting five years after the textile mill WestPoint Stevens closed, taking 400 jobs.
When announcing the acquisition, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell touted the Elkhart company’s plans to invest $2.5 million into Appomattox and create 150 new jobs. Wenger and Adams characterized those figures as “targets.”
“Basically these are sort of the maximum of what we could project,” Wenger said. “These are definitely numbers that the state is using but they’re more of a target versus ‘here is the exact plan for this.’”
Genesis and Appomattox have similar philosophies and cultures in terms of the work ethic, treatment of employees and interaction with the local community and customers as well as sustainability goals, Wenger said. The skill sets and products at the Virginia plant could lead to an expansion of manufacturing at the Elkhart facility.
“It is a nice continuation of our business,” Wenger said. “We think it will enhance our Indiana operation over time.”