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Kase Conveyors Part Of IKO Project

When IKO Southwest starts producing shingles later this year at its Hillsboro plant, conveyors produced by a Whitney company will play an integral role in the process.

Kase Conveyors recently finished installing the last of 39 conveyors that were part of a $1.4 million contract with the Toronto, Canada-based company.

Kase has been in operation in Whitney since 1982, initially providing equipment for the horticultural industry.

Over time the company expanded into the industrial conveyor business. While custom conveyors make up a bulk of its sales each year, the horticulture division continues to produce automated soil and material handling equipment for nurseries and greenhouses.

Itasca graduate Oscar Castillo, Jr. purchased the company with partners in 2008. He later bought out his partners and remains the sole owner.

The road to the local job began when company officials noticed an announcement in the local newspaper about IKO selecting Hillsboro as its site for the plant.

Working through the Hillsboro Economic Development Corporation (HEDC), Vice President of Sales and Marketing Scott Chambers was put in touch with IKO officials at its corporate headquarters in Toronto.

“Arthur Mann (HEDC administrator) put me in contact with John Anhang with IKO and Kase was placed on the bidders’ list,” Chambers explained.

Kase officials had an opportunity while in Chicago for a trade show to visit with the engineering firm that was in charge of the project.

The two-year process to secure the contract culminated with a Chambers’ trip to Toronto to meet with IKO officials. At corporate headquarters

Castillo credits Chambers and Natasha Sawyer for securing and getting the IKO job complete.

“I give Scott and Natasha all of the glory. Scott negotiated the contract, flying to Toronto to seal the deal. Natasha joined our company last year and coordinated the project both at the office and onsite,” Castillo added.

The company has provided 20 belt and 19 screw conveyors for the plant.

According Imad Amro, project manager for IKO, the Kase conveyors will be used to move raw materials, like granules, rock and crushed rock around the plant.

“It was great to have a local company to provide the needed conveyors,” Amro said. “Any issues or concerns that have come up have been addressed quickly. It has been a good fit and a great company to work with.”

Like many businesses, Kase has been in a recovery mode since the 2015 downturn in the oil and gas industry.

Chambers pointed out that 2014 was a record year for Kase as many of its largest conveyor customers were involved in the frac sand business.

That had led to an expansion of its facilities on Highway 22 in southeast Whitney, which now includes over 50,000 square feet of production and warehouse space, up from 10,000 square feet when the business was purchased.

But just like so many other oil and gas related businesses in Texas, 2015 turned out to be a struggle for Kase as fewer and fewer oil and gas wells were being drilled due to depressed prices.

That picture has started to turn around as the price of oil and gas has started to recover and the drilling rigs head back to the oil patch.

Kase is currently working on several big projects in the Permian Basin of West Texas, plus in Wisconsin and Michigan, all dealing with frac sand.

The company is also producing conveyors for an expansion at IKO’s Sylacauga, Alabama shingle plant and has bid on another IKO project in Canada.

Additionally, Kase recently completed large conveyor projects for a water park and the concrete and fiberglass industries.

The projects outside the oil and gas field are allowing Kase to diversify its production in an attempt to avoid a drop in sales when another downturn in the energy sector hits, Chambers pointed out.

The conveyors are manufactured in 40-foot sections and are then assembled on site. One of the longest ever built stretched five miles with a continuous belt to provide an overland conveyor.

Chambers explained that it was cheaper to move the product with a conveyor rather than using trucks.

The company currently employees 40 people.

Castillo added, “We appreciated IKO selecting Hillsboro for its project.”

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