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Woodwinds plant to upgrade, hire 30

S. Whitley plan to hike output, cut wait times

The sweet sounds of job creation are floating up from one South Whitley employer.

Fox Products, which makes double-reed woodwind instruments, will add up to 30 new jobs by 2017 as it invests $2.3 million in new equipment and minor renovations to its plant at 6110 S. Indiana 5, officials said Wednesday.

The company, which now employs about 120, will begin hiring for the new positions in October. Wages for the mostly production jobs will start at $10 an hour, depending on applicants’ skills, said Phil Wade, Fox operations manager. The factory also needs workers who can program CNC – or computer-numerical controlled – machines.

If all the jobs are created, Fox Products would be back to its workforce peak of 150 employees, Wade said. The company reduced its headcount in the wake of the recession.

Fox Products has a four-month backlog of orders for its standard bassoons, oboes and English horns, said Nancy Hobbs, administrative vice president. Customers placing special orders typically have to wait six months or more before receiving delivery, she said.

By investing in $2 million worth of new equipment, the company plans to increase its annual production by 35 percent to 3,100 instruments in 2017 from 2,300 now.

Ramping up production will allow the manufacturer to shorten U.S. and international customers’ waiting time, Hobbs said. Fox-made instruments are played by musicians including those in the Chicago Symphony and New York Philharmonic.

The 29,000-square-foot plant is scheduled to receive most of the new equipment by the end of the year.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. has offered Fox Products up to $140,000 in conditional tax credits and up to $40,000 in training grants, contingent on the company fulfilling its hiring goals.

The Whitley County Council approved a tax abatement on the equipment, which is expected to save the company up to $79,254 over 10 years, said Alan Tio, president of the Whitley County Economic Development Corp.

“I am pleased to see longtime employers like Fox Products and Precision Plastics pursuing investments that will add capabilities and generate new jobs in our community,” Tio said in an email.

Last month, Precision Plastics Inc. announced plans to create up to 15 jobs by 2017 as it invests $265,000 in a new warehouse in Columbia City.