News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 18, 2013

Stark Industries opens new doors, expands market reach

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — From a display of machined parts to tours of the operations, Stark Industries opened its doors Thursday to show its new facility at the Terre Haute International Airport-Hulman Field.

“We are all very excited about our new facility,” said Jeff Stark, president of Stark Industries, a new parent umbrella company for JWS Machine, Stark Medical and Stark Unmanned Systems. “It will allow us to work smarter, more efficiently and will also allow us to expand in our current markets and the new ones to come.”

Stark Industries in late August moved from Clay County into the 87,000-square-foot Building 2 at the airport. The building, formerly used by Ivy Tech Community College, sat vacant for seven years after a tornado damaged the building and a lawsuit resulted over its repair.

The company now employs 50 workers and expects to raise that to 60 employees by year’s end, said Eric Stark, chief operating officer. The family-owned company has invested nearly $4 million in new equipment purchases and property improvements, he said.

“This is a great example of public-private partnership, the benefits of which will be seen for many years to come,” he said. The company has a 20-year lease for the building from the Terre Haute Airport Authority.

Stark Industries works on aerospace, medical and heavy industry, as well as unmanned systems.

Jeff Stark said if a partnership between Indiana and Ohio is selected to become one of six test sites for unmanned aircraft systems, the airport facility will accommodate that work. Stark said the company would also partner with Indiana State University.

“If we get that, it will be huge,” he said, saying that connection would also add more employees.

In another aspect of the business, the company is currently developing and seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration on a medical surgical device used for breast removal for cancer patients, Stark said.

“We worked on developing this for the past several years,” he said.

The company’s primary work is aerospace components. “We do a lot of combustor work in jet engines, mainly for GE. We do a lot with the engine program for the GENX, the LEAP-X and the GE9X, so we are on the leading edge with GE’s new technology,” he said.

The airport location allows the company to be closer to GE, which has two facilities in Terre Haute, and “gives us better infrastructure than what had and is more centrally located. We have a lot more space to grow.”

Jeff Stark, 47, is a 1985 graduate of Terre Haute North Vigo High School. He immediately started working in machine shops for about 10 years before starting his own business. The family-owned company started 20 years ago with him and his wife, Lori, who is chief executive officer of the company. Revenues then were about $200,000. The company has grown to 50 workers with about $5 million in revenues.

“We built through our own experience, the school of hard knocks and perseverance, making contacts and doing a good job,” Jeff Stark said. The couple’s son, Daniel, a senior at ISU, also works for the company.

Don Brown, shop floor supervisor, conducted a tour of the facility, showing a drilling electric discharge machine, which produces small, tight tolerance holes using electricity that eats away at the metal.

The facility has lathe and milling departments, including four new computer numeric control machines that are five-axis vertical mills, Brown said. The machines work on high-temperature alloy metals, such as titanium and inconel.

Among some parts displayed that the company produces were a Joint Strike Fighter aft tail cone, an aircraft heat shield retainer nut, a left and right canopy retainer, first generation GENX fuel air mixer, GENX fan frame for anti-ice, exit transition frame for a land-based turbine, Anheuser-Busch bottle fill tube, GE9X fuel air mixer and GE9X dome plate assembly.

“It takes entrepreneurs to start with an idea and turn it into something like this,” Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett said in remarks at the open house. “There is so much potential here, and it is great to hear the diversification in the business model.

“Terre Haute is a great place to do business, and I think that is a great partnership. This is the kind of business that is growing across Indiana and the United States,” the mayor said.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.