2018-02-14 / Front Page

Kamax wants runway moved for $16M expansion

BY ANDREW DIETDERICH
810-452-2609 • adietderich@mihomepaper.com


Tom Atkins, director of facility and environmental health safety at Kamax L.P., presented the idea of relocating a runway at DuPont-Lapeer Airport to the Mayfield Township Airport Board Tuesday. 
Photos by Andrew Dietderich Tom Atkins, director of facility and environmental health safety at Kamax L.P., presented the idea of relocating a runway at DuPont-Lapeer Airport to the Mayfield Township Airport Board Tuesday. Photos by Andrew Dietderich MAYFIELD TWP. — Kamax L.P. could cover the cost of relocating a runway at DuPont- Lapeer Airport to make way for the company’s next phase of expansion — a new building and investment of up to $16 million.

Tom Atkins, director of facility and environmental health safety at Kamax, presented the idea to the Mayfield Township Airport Board Tuesday.

The intent, he told board members, was to determine if they generally support the idea of relocating one of the airport’s runways enough to continue developing a more detailed, comprehensive plan.

In short, Atkins said the airport’s grass runway needs to be moved about 600 feet east to allow for construction of Kamax’s next new building at the site, a project with a price tag of up to $16 million, he said, and the first of the company’s next phase of expansion.


Pat Cronin, chairman of the Mayfield Airport Board, said “If there’s no cost to the airport, I’m open-minded to extending the grass runway only, immediately to the east.” Pat Cronin, chairman of the Mayfield Airport Board, said “If there’s no cost to the airport, I’m open-minded to extending the grass runway only, immediately to the east.” Kamax completed a $22-million expansion project late last summer.

“We’ve gotten a lot of complements lately on how our building looks, how it’s been expanded…’I can’t believe you’re growing this much,’” Atkins told the airport board. “We’re not done…that’s the key thing to explain to people.

“We really have plans to continue at least four more building phases on this site, that I know of today,” he added. “Really that takes us through our growth plan only through 2020.”

Atkins noted any expansion plans could be affected/ delayed by fluctuations in the automotive industry.

Kamax is a tier one supplier of fasteners (bolts) for most automakers, including some of the newest to the market.

Tier one suppliers are those that work directly with original equipment manufacturers, such as General Motors Co., FCA Group, Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Hyundai Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., and Tesla Inc.

Kamax also makes fasteners to other tier suppliers, such as Federal-Mogul Corp., TRW Automotive, and Johnson Controls International PLC.

Kamax made about 3.3.billion fasteners globally in 2016 (the most recent numbers available). That includes 750 million made at the Roods Lake Road plant, officials told The County Press last year.

The kind of bolts made by Kamax are used throughout the vehicle, performing crucial duties, such as holding the engine in place. A typical vehicle can include up to 500 bolts.

When it comes to future business for Kamax, Atkins said Tuesday “our numbers are looking really good.”

Atkins briefly described the new building that Kamax officials would like to build “probably in 2019.”

“It actually would be a wire processing facility, which really is one long piece of equipment with multiple tanks — I think there’s 16 tanks in it — everything from an acidic tank to wash tanks to coating tanks, drying tanks,” Atkins said, later noting that the price tag of up to $16 million is largely attributable to the equipment that would be in the building.

The building would be about 250 feet long and 75 feet wide on the north part of Kamax’s property. Atkins said it has to be on the north part of the property because of where the wire processing operations fit into the overall manufacturing process used at the plant.

The issue, he said, is that “the inside height of this building is 45 feet.” That would be problematic for aircraft using the airport’s grass runway, which is the westernmost landing strip at the airport and adjacent to Kamax.

In addition to the building, Atkins said, the company wants to create an area of “outside wire storage.” Essentially, he said, huge coils of wire would be stored outside awaiting use in the wire processing facility (being exposed to the elements and rusting actually is intentional, he noted, because it helps in the treatment process).

Further, Atkins said, Kamax wants to erect a fence along the eastern edge of its property abutting the airport. Doing so would mean the entire Kamax property is fenced in.

“We understand that moving this runway has absolutely zero value to you as an airport,” Atkins told the board. “So that being said, we understand that it is important to us and it has a direct impact on our growth plans.

“The proposal that I would give to our board is that we offer a charitable donation to a nonprofit organization that allows for this process to begin,” Atkins said, while using his fingers to make air quotes when he said “charitable donation to a nonprofit organization.”

He also proposed the idea of buying part of airport property that is currently part of the easement for the grass runway.

Dan Frisch, airport board member who also serves as township treasurer, suggested Atkins present the idea to the township board of trustees.

“They’ve been opposed to doing anything with the grass runway for 10 years…’We’re not going to move it, we’re not going to pave it, we’re not going to do anything,’” Frisch said. “They have to give the OK to even begin the process.”

Kamax launched in 1935, founded by Rudolf Kellermann in Osterode, Germany. The name is an amalgam of the German “ka”, or force, and “max,” as in maximum.

The purpose of the business then was the same as it is today: manufacture fasteners (bolts) for the automotive industry.

The company came to Mayfield Township in 1995, when it acquired bolt manufacturer G.B. DuPont and its fastener-related operations in Hamtramck, Troy, and Mayfield Township.

Since 1995, the current location has expanded from about 75,000 square feet to more than 335,000 square feet.

Officials have said such investments are necessary due to the company’s continue growth. About 20 years ago, when Kamax bought G.B. DuPont, the company had U.S. revenue of about $55 million.

In 2016, Kamax’s U.S. operations posted $136 million in revenue.

Company officials have said they are committed to the Lapeer area for several reasons, including the quality of workforce.

The company has had success working with organizations like the Michigan Economic Development Corp., Mayfield Township, the Lapeer County Road Commission, the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Lapeer Development Corp.

For example, nearly $1 million was secured through a grant to resurface Wilder Road between Imlay City Road and I-69.

Kamax also was granted a 12-year industrial facilities exemption certificate by Mayfield Township board of trustees at its regular meeting on Feb. 8, 2016.

On Tuesday, Mayfield Township Airport Board members came to the consensus that they would be generally supportive of the idea of relocating the one airport runway as long as the township isn’t socked any bills and the impact on operations is minimal.

“If there’s no cost to the airport, I’m open-minded to extending the grass runway only, immediately to the east,” said Pat Cronin, chairman of the airport board. “Kamax has been a very good neighbor to the airport … and we want to continue that. But it has to be at zero cost.”

Frisch suggested Atkins get on the agenda of the Mayfield Township board of trustees’ March agenda. The board is set to meet March 12.

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