Royal Technologies President Jim Vander Kolk cuts the ribbon on his company’s $14 million, 194,000-square-foot facility expansion on Thursday morning, July 12, 2018. (W.C. Mann for The Tribune)
Updated 7-12-18 at 8:07 p.m.
CULLMAN – On Thursday morning, Royal Technologies (RT) President Jim Vander Kolk cut the ribbon to open the company’s $14 million facility expansion on Cullman’s northeast side, doubling the building’s capacity and making it the largest of RT’s three facilities. The expansion added 25 new jobs, and, according to previous estimates, that number could eventually rise to 50.
According to Vander Kolk, the expansion covers 194,000 square feet and contains 568 truckloads of cement, 38.3 miles of wire, 76,000 tons of steel and was built in 38 weeks.
In attendance were Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs and representatives of the Cullman City Council, city and county economic development agencies, Cullman Industrial Development Board, Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce, Cullman County Schools, Wallace State and Cullman Area Workforce Solutions. U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama and U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama also sent representatives.
Vander Kolk talked about the construction of the building expansion and thanked those involved, but, gesturing toward members of the RT staff, told the crowd, “The most important: those employees. This facility is built on their backs. They took just as big a risk as I did nine years ago. We all thought it was going to work; the difference is, they made it work. So it’s on the backs of our employees. And as we grow this organization, construction people do amazing things, architectural people do amazing things, but it’s these people who come in here every day, committed because they care–they care for one another, they care for their community, they care for their business. All I happen to be is the guy who gets to stand in front once in a while, but they’re the people that make me and this organization look good.”
Cullman Economic Development Agency Director Dale Greer noted that, in a county in which the average employer sees an 18 percent employee turnover rate, the rate at RT is just three percent.
RT, in business since 1987, is based in Hudsonville, Michigan, with more than 1,200 employees working at facilities in that city, Cullman and Mission, Texas. The company specializes in plastic and urethane foam molding for the automotive and furniture industries, as well as other commercial ventures. Within Alabama, RT’s Cullman facility supplies components to the Hyundai automotive plant in Montgomery, Remington Firearms in Huntsville and REHAU right here in Cullman.
When he announced the expansion last fall, Vander Kolk said of his Cullman operation, “About 10 years ago, I began to realize that in order for our company to continue its growth, we had to locate outside of west Michigan. So we started looking for communities: where do we set up shop?
“It was during that time that we happened upon the (Cullman Economic Development Agency), namely Peggy (Smith) and Dale (Greer), and they showed us the land. And land is important, but that’s not what attracted us. In fact, they told us you were really smart, and there are some very astute people here, but that’s not what attracted us. You told us you work hard. Yeah, we realize how hard you work, but that’s not what attracted us. What attracted us to Cullman–and I have to admit, I sound a little funny to y’all–but one thing we have in common are values: and values of trust, integrity and respect, of stewardship. And it didn’t take long to realize this was a bunch of people that make up a community they call Cullman. But is wasn’t what they did, it was who they are. I’m a firm believer that who you are is manifested by what you do. And that’s what attracted us to this community.
“We’re enthusiastic about the future; not because of what we do, but we feel so comfortable living amongst and being a great neighbor in a community that’s second to none.”
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