|The sky's not even the limit for Roscoe company|
|Written by Dennis Hines/Stateline News|
|Monday, 14 May 2012 11:22|
Technicians at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory look over the Mars rover Curiosity before its launch last year. The rover includes gears made by a Roscoe company.
ROSCOE — While some companies look to expand by tapping overseas markets, Forest City Gear has found a market that’s out of this world. The Roscoe company manufactured gears that were used on the most recent Mars rover
“We’re out of this world,” said CEO Fred Young. “We made gears for the latest Mars rover vehicle that went up in December, so we have gears that go out of this world.”
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The latest generation rover, named Curiosity, is currently traveling toward Mars and is expected to arrive sometime in August.
The gears use a new titanium-like alloy that will help save the project thousands of dollars per ounce on the final payload.
In addition to its NASA contract, the company exports products to China, Singapore, New Zealand, Japan, Switzerland, Pakistan and Spain. Young said some products are delivered to U.S. companies, then transported to other countries. The company makes parts for airplanes, race cars, military equipment, tractors, medical examining tables, power tools and telescopes.
By some estimates, there are roughly 1,000 manufacturers in Winnebago County, and the area is becoming a hub for aerospace industries. Companies like Forest City Gear have found a way to tap into both growth markets.
They’re not alone. Many small companies have found growth opportunities not at home, but in international markets.
“Many of our customers are in the United States, but we also have a lot of products that get shipped overseas,” Young said. “We do a lot of work for Boeing, and a lot of our gears are on the Boeing ‘7’ series aircrafts. I’m not privy to how many of our products go overseas, but I would guess about 40 percent to 50 percent of our products go overseas.”
Young said having international clients plays in an important role in the company’s success. He said the company plans to expand its international client base in the future.
“It gives us an opportunity to do things in other markets. We are able to do things in other markets where other gear companies are not able to compete,” Young said. “It’s a good opportunity to sell our products in other places in case our customers in the United States slow down.”
Young said the company’s business has increased by about 25 percent during the past two years and is projected to increase by about 50 percent this year.
Because of that growth, the company announced two weeks ago that it plans to move its operations to a larger facility. A 8,500-square-foot building is being constructed across the street from the company’s current location at 11715 Main St. The new facility is expected to be operational by the end of the year.
“We considered moving out of Roscoe, possibly even to Beloit, but we decided to stay here,” Young said. “Growth has been phenomenal. We’re running out of room, so the only thing we can do is expand.”
Forest City Gear also has increased its workforce during the past few years. The company had about 55 employees in 2009 and now has about 108 workers.
“So, we have almost doubled the size of our workforce,” Young said.
Forest City Gear recently received an International Trade Award from the Stateline World Trade Association. Young said it was an honor for the company to receive the award.
Young’s parents started the company in 1955 in Rockford. The company was then relocated to Rockton, then to its current location in Roscoe. Young said having quality products and hard-working employees is a large part of the company’s success.