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Langlade County News

Merit Gear Breaks Ground For Office

November 17, 2011

Merit Gear, one of Antigo’s most durable industries, is on target to post record sales and has broken ground on a new office complex at its Hudson Street facilities.

The precision gearing manufacturer has realigned its business to focus on booming oil drilling and mining operations, according to Vice-President of Sales & Marketing Larry Steffens, and the move is paying off.

“The company is posting a record year,” Steffens said. “We are doing very well, largely because of our excellent employees.”

In a very visible sign of that progress, Company President Tom Rouse and other senior officials turned a ceremonial shovel to mark the start of a construction project that will consolidate offices now scattered throughout the manufacturing plant into one central area.

“We believe the design and layout of the new office space will be functional and a significant improvement over our current facilities,” Rouse said.

The two-story addition will extend about 15 feet toward Hudson Street and will also involve remodeling about 20 feet of the interior of the plant. Rouse said it will offer several benefits, including placing most administrative personnel in one central area, rather than scattered throughout the plant and eliminate some safety concerns with the current office arrangements, which require visitors to move through production areas.

“It will also give a more positive perception of the company to visitors, including customers, vendors and those in the community,” he said.

The addition will include a reception area, restrooms, conference room and lunchroom in addition to the office space.

General contractor is McNeil West Construction of Antigo.

The project comes three years after the company completed a major expansion, with assistance from the city of Antigo and state and federal sources, to improve infrastructure and add capacity.

At that time, the focus was shifting toward producing gears for wind turbines, an area that has not seen the robust growth initially anticipated.

Instead, Steffens said the new wing has become home to manufacturing and inspection processes that focus on the high-precision and massive gears and gear boxes used in mining, oil drilling, and the transportation industry, including the New York City subway system and Chicago’s Metra.

“That investment is the reason we are booming,” Steffens said. “Our gears are all over the world.”

Always looking for opportunities, Merit is also remaining active in the wind turbine industry, and is ready to play a role as “green” energy becomes more mainstream and robust.

“We have more orders now that we’ve ever had for the wind turbine business,” Steffens said, a number that is expected to double again next year. “We’re proud to be associated with environmentally friendly technologies that are driving us closer to a more sustainable future.”

Merit Gear and Machine Company was formed in Antigo in 1952 by two Chicago partners who understood that they could combine their knowledge and experience with the hard-working labor forces of northern Wisconsin.

Merit’s first gears were for the tractor replacement market and general machine applications, gradually growing and moving toward the high-precision equipment of today. It moved to its Hudson Street location in 1979 and has greatly expanded since.

The company is owned by One Equity Partners, a private equity firm focused on leveraged buyout and growth capital investments in middle-market companies across a range of industries. The firm, which is based in New York City and Chicago, is the investment arm of JPMorgan Chase.

Steffens said One Equity Partners has invested $22 million in Merit Gear and it has proven to be an excellent fit.

“We’re on a solid foundation and we’re growing,” he said. “We’re anticipating a bright future.”

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