CALEDONIA — A Hastings-based manufacturer of fire suppression equipment needed a new home that would allow its business to expand and meet the demands for its growing line of sprinklers.
Ultimately, Viking Group Inc. chose a site in Caledonia Township that sits midway between its Hastings manufacturing plant and its offices in Grand Rapids, mainly so its employees could move over with minimal disruption.
“The employees come from Grand Rapids, Holland and Hastings,” President James Golinveaux told MiBiz. “(It’s out of) respect for them that our expansion needs would be met in this area.”
When the new facility is completed sometime in early 2019, Viking Group will move roughly 100 people and expects to hire more than 50 new employees in the next few years in conjunction with the expansion.
The location will “attract new talent to the area,” retain the company’s current employees and include easier customer access for visitors coming into the area via the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, Golinveaux said.
“We knew we had to grow in our size, and the question was where and what sort of center we would develop it around,” he said. “We had a number of needs in training, research and development, advanced manufacturing, and more office space and … an idea came together to put it all into one facility.”
DEMAND IS UP
A manufacturer of fire sprinklers, valves, CPVC piping, and other fire protection devices, Viking Group plans to locate the new facility at an undisclosed site near M-6 and M-37 in Caledonia Township. The site will include an expanded, state-of-the-art research and development center, high-tech training facility, and a corporate headquarters.
Planning for the site took more than six months, Golinveaux said.
“We knew that Viking wanted to stay close to its Hastings operations while maintaining its presence in the Grand Rapids area, so we felt that the southeast Grand Rapids area, with M-37 access, would be ideal,” Thad Rieder, senior business development manager at The Right Place Inc., said in a statement. “We’re excited to see what this state-of-the-art headquarters facility, with world-class R&D and training facilities, will do for the forward-thinking Viking.”
According to a Research and Markets report, the fire protection systems market is expected to reach $93.46 billion by 2022, growing at a compound annual rate of 9.7 percent over the next five years.
Similarly, Golinveaux said demand for his company’s products has been up since the Great Recession, especially as more municipalities beef up fire codes and regulations nationwide, many of which are requiring sprinkler systems “to help mitigate the risk of fires.”
“The last five years, (there’s) been continued growth of the industry from where we were in the recovery,” Golinveaux said. “The construction industry is still recovering from the ’08-’09 time period … but there’s more recognition in fire safety in buildings across the country.
“More buildings require automatic sprinklers to be installed over the last five years, incrementally.”
‘INVESTING IN THE CULTURE’
Despite a concern over new disruptive technologies in the fire suppression equipment industry, Golinveaux is betting on his company and “thinking of the next better thing.”
“There are always disruptive technologies,” Golinveaux said. “At Viking, and since I have been with this company, we are the only obstacles to what we can accomplish here. Part of this new facility is investing in people, investing in the culture, to expand on our talents and attract new talent as it becomes available.”
The privately-held Viking Group, which does not disclose its annual sales, projects single-digit revenue growth over the next year, in line with the 4.5 percent to 5 percent expansion in demand over the last four years.
At its West Michigan locations, the Viking Group has roughly 400 employees and 1,000 employees nationwide.
“Smart people are together (at Viking) to figure out the future of fire suppression and the way it is going to be handled in the United States,” he said.
Golinveaux noted the facility will help position the company for the future, citing a recent hire who picked the Viking Group over competitors as an example.
“Being closer to the downtown area, the airport and the colleges is already showing some success,” he said.
Made in Michigan: Starting in early 2019, the Viking Group will expand into a third West Michigan location, which will serve as the company’s new global headquarters. Additionally, the global fire suppression equipment manufacturer’s expansion in Caledonia is expected to create more than new 50 jobs.