BILL HETHCOCK, Dallas Business Journal
Pliers, screwdrivers, wire strippers, fish tapes and new products — including a new, fast-selling electrician multi-tool — are transformed from forged steel to finished products at Klein Tools’ manufacturing plants in Mansfield.
The company operates around-the-clock, churning out 30,000 hand tools per day from its Mansfield plants.
After years of U.S. manufacturers fleeing for cheaper countries, Klein Tools’ experience in Mansfield is a made-in-America success story at a time when President Donald Trump is urging companies to recommit to manufacturing in the United States.
Klein Tools now owns 100 acres in Mansfield and has two plants, with the possibility of more on the way, in the suburban Tarrant County city of approximately 61,000 people. The company closed its dilapidated, 60-year-old manufacturing plant in Illinois six years ago and moved those functions and more to the Texas town.
Since opening its initial plant and manufacturing headquarters in Mansfield in 2011, Lincolnshire, Ill.-based Klein has provided jobs for about 375 fulltime manufacturing workers, 50 corporate employees and 40 temps-to-hire, with more jobs on the way as the company sticks to its growth track.
Klein pledged to bring 585 new jobs to Mansfield within 12 years, and to meet other investment requirements, in exchange for $2.8 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund plus $500,000 grants each year for 12 years under an economic incentive package approved by the Mansfield City Council.
Despite an economic recovery that has been slower than Klein forecast, the company has met its hiring and investment objectives, said Thomas R. Klein, president of Klein Tools.
Here are excerpts from multiple interviews with Klein:
Why did you choose to set up shop in Mansfield? We had filters set up for what we were looking for. Such things as a right-to-work state. We wanted to be in a low or no income tax state. We wanted to have access to a very good work force. We wanted to be close to a big international airport so we didn’t have to do connector flights all the time. And we wanted a business friendly environment. So we ended up in this area.
What’s new as it relates to Mansfield? We are still adding employees from the manufacturing floor up to executive positions. We’re adding employees at all levels. We’re constantly adding engineers, technicians and workers. We’re growing.
How many employees relocated from Illinois six years ago? About 30, and a majority are still with us today. We have five Klein family members that are working out of the Mansfield location right now.
How many generations of Kleins have run the company? I’m the last of the fifth generation people working now, and we have the sixth generation coming on board. My great-great grandfather started it in1857.
What are your plans for hiring and investment in Mansfield this year? We will continue hiring because our growth supports it. And we’re constantly putting millions of dollars in terms of machinery and equipment, and this year’s capital plan calls for roughly $5 million more.
What new products are you adding? We have new products across the board going in. We don’t really announce what they are beforehand, because we don’t want the competition to come up with something beforehand and try to beat us to market. We’ve been very successful with our new products program. We’ve launched about 1,900 new products since 2009. Roughly 17.5 percent of our sales represent products that have been introduced in the last 36 months, which shows you why we are constantly looking for engineers and such.
How is the North Texas labor market in terms workforce readiness? We have gotten very involved with training people, because engineers and technicians who work in manufacturing are hard to find. This isn’t just a Texas problem. It’s a nationwide problem.
Is Klein Tools considering acquisitions? We do look for acquisitions. Nothing we can announce today, but that is an active pursuit. We have two that we’re working on right now.
What is Klein Tools’ commitment to operating in the United States? Obviously when you look to relocate operations, like we did in 2010, you can put them anywhere you want in the world. We want to be a U.S.-based manufacturer, so we didn’t even consider outside the U.S.
What do you think of President Trump’s efforts to discourage companies from moving manufacturing to lower-cost countries? We’ve always been committed to the U.S., so what he (Trump) is doing doesn’t really affect us because we weren’t trying to outsource in the first place. But to the extent that he is successful in bringing more jobs to the U.S., that’s going to help a lot. If our economy starts growing at the rate that we had originally planned for (when moving to Mansfield in 2011), that’s going to help us and our employees. So I’m hoping that he is successful.