DeFOREST — You won’t see Evco Plastics’ name on a product label on your store shelves, but the DeForest company is a contract manufacturer whose components are part of a wide range of products, from Sub-Zero’s specialty refrigerators to John Deere tractors.
The family-owned company is building a $6 million, 50,000-square-foot addition onto one of its three buildings in DeForest, about 15 miles north of Madison, and plans to add about 70 jobs over the next few years.
The addition will more than double the size of Evco’s medical manufacturing plant, currently at 34,000 square feet, to ramp up capacity for making medical devices and parts.
“We’re going to get a little bigger so we can make bigger things,” Evco president Dale Evans said. “We hope to triple the amount of work we get.”
Evco has nine factories with a combined 750,000 square feet of space. In addition to the three in DeForest — they have a total of 150,000 square feet — the others are in Oshkosh; Calhoun, Georgia; China; and three in Mexico.
The company has 1,200 employees worldwide, including about 250 in DeForest.
Plastics make up a significant portion of Wisconsin’s manufacturing industry. In 2015, the most recent year for which figures are available, Wisconsin produced $57 billion worth of manufactured goods and $2.8 billion, or 4.9 percent, were in the plastics and rubber industry, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Wisconsin ranked eighth among the states for jobs in plastics manufacturing in 2015, with 39,800 jobs, a report by the Plastics Industry Association said. It was No. 4 in the number of plastics jobs per 1,000 non-farm employees, behind Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, the report said.
Evco has been a growing part of Wisconsin’s plastics industry for more than 50 years.
Its specialty is injection molding of thermoplastics — that involves injecting plastic resin into a mold to manufacture products.
Founded in 1964 by Don and Joan Evans, Evco — a shortened version of Evans Co. — still has its headquarters at the original site, 100 W. North St., DeForest, though the building has been expanded eight times. The founders’ son Dale, 65, has worked for the family business for 44 years and became president in 1991. Dale’s two brothers, two daughters and a niece are also part of the staff now, too.
Evco’s first product was plastic bookends for Demco, a family-owned, Madison library supplies business, and local companies such as family-owned Sub-Zero Group, of Fitchburg, are still counted among Evco’s key clients.
The company also makes components for appliances, lawn and garden equipment and power sports vehicles such as ATVs. “If you buy a John Deere tractor, we probably have parts in there,” Evans said.
‘You make mistakes, people die’
Expansion of the medical plant, 121 Evco Circle, is the first add-on to the DeForest facilities in 29 years.
“Medical (equipment) is a target market for us,” Evans said. He said making parts for medical devices and producing food packaging are the fastest growing segments of Evco’s business, which is expected, overall, to generate $155 million in revenue this year, up about 10 percent from 2016.
“People have to eat and people get sick,” Evans said.
Tripling the size of the plant’s clean room from the current 10,000 square feet to 30,000 square feet will allow for more medical product manufacturing that meets strict government regulations, he said. Evco has made components for a range of medical uses including DNA tests, blood tests, surgical instruments and medical imaging.
Adding 70 workers in the medical plant over the next few years will double employment in that facility and will bring Evco’s local employment to about 320. The jobs will offer starting pay ranging from about $14 an hour to about $35 an hour, not counting benefits, Evans said.
Positions will include mold makers, tool and die workers and robotic technicians. Evco designs and builds its own molds, and manufactures and tests its products to make sure the devices will be reliable — a key factor in medical manufacturing, Evans said.
“You make mistakes, people die. That’s what (employees) understand in this facility,” he said.
The addition will house advanced technology that inspects parts as they are produced, without having to wait until they are finished, said Anna Bartz, Evco marketing director.
“It eliminates human error — basically, mistake-proofing the manufacturing process,” said Bartz, Evans’ daughter.
Bartz said it can take 12 weeks to design and check the quality of a new agricultural or power sports component, and even longer for medical devices.
Ambitions for growth
Evco has basked in some national attention in the past year and a half. It was named 2016 Processor of the Year by Plastics News, and the company was featured in stories in the Los Angeles Times and on the NBC Nightly News.
“We had a ton of positive feedback from customers,” Bartz said.
Evans said the expansion is just part of the growth he anticipates for Evco.
“Our goal is to double the size of our business (worldwide) in the next eight years, and we’re on track to do that,” he said.
The addition, being built by CG Schmidt, is expected to be completed in February 2018.