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Aakron Rule plans to triple size of facility

An Akron manufacturer that got its start with school rulers and pencils wants to triple the size of its warehouse and manufacturing building to handle the growth of its newer promotional items business.

Aakron Rule Corp., a 50-year-old company whose products are found in schools and hardware stores, wants to add more than 25,000 square feet to its 12,000-square foot warehouse at 3 Oak St., Akron.

The company needs room to store inventory and expand its injection-molding operation, which makes key tags, license-plate holders and branded bottles, cups and glasses.

Aakron Rule employs 148 people at its Akron facility and owns land at that site to accommodate the expansion. But it left open the possibility of expanding its plant in Bakewell, Tenn., instead.

"This project could be categorized as a need and not a want," the company said in a tax incentive application to the Erie County Industrial Development Agency.

The company, in its tax break application, noted that state and local economic development officials in Tennessee have offered almost $300,000 in incentives for the company to shift manufacturing and printing operations there. That would move 25 jobs and the molding department.

The company has applied to ECIDA for a package of mortgage recording, sales and property tax breaks, saving it $19,650 in mortgage taxes and $96,250 in sales taxes. A public hearing on the $2.67 million proposal will be held at 9 a.m. Feb. 21 in Akron Village Hall. Comments will be accepted by the ECIDA through March 21.

Aakron got its start making rulers, yardsticks and pencils, but grew beyond that to other products. The company, which now controls 40 percent of its production, found a niche making promotional products for customer marketing and events, including drinkware and other items.

The company, which sells more than 800 products, has outgrown its current space and has to store some of its stock in separate buildings.

"A much larger warehouse and an updated racking system would eliminate a lot of running back and forth between locations, as well as making the physical strain these jobs take on our workers much more manageable," the company wrote.

The company wants to put a 9,000-square-foot addition on the side of the building, bringing total warehouse space up to 20,500, with a 500-square-foot office. That would be used to store products it manufactures, as well as those made for it elsewhere.

The company also plans to expand its molding operation by building a 16,000-square-foot addition on its Oak Street warehouse with space for its molding line and an office. Its current molding facility would become a print shop area.

The company plans to update its auxiliary equipment for the molding operation and purchase new electric molding machines, at a cost of $300,000 apiece.

"New equipment is necessary to help us not only become more energy efficient, but also improve our production capabilities," the company wrote. "We have been taking on some rather large quantity orders, and our limited space and production capabilities have made it very difficult to satisfy all customers within a specified time frame."

Officials said the ECIDA assistance would enable it to expand more easily and hire more people, including a new assistant mold manager, a new maintenance manager, up to eight laborers, two warehouse staffers and a chief operating officer.

The project costs include $1.25 million for the building additions, $200,000 for infrastructure, $265,000 for renovation, $500,000 for manufacturing equipment and almost $500,000 in other expenses. Financing would come from KeyBank loans, but the company also received a $500,000 Excelsior Jobs grant from the state and plans to apply for workforce training grants and utility loans.

The company plans to start work by April 1 once municipal approvals are lined up. It hopes to complete the project by October.

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