"I am thrilled," owner Dave Wage said of the $9 million-per-year deal calling for production of more than 2,200 different high-strength carbon hydraulic lines.
They will be used in Caterpillar skid steers, backhoe loaders, excavators and other equipment manufactured in the United States and abroad, including Brazil.
Wage said the contract is undergoing final review with the length to be decided, a minimum of three years and a maximum of five years.
Formrite already has been producing about 40 different tube lines for Caterpillar's skid steers made in North Carolina for global distribution.
This year's Japanese tsunami interrupted the Caterpillar supply chain and resulted in rolling layoffs of Formrite employees.
Wage said all workers are back to full employment with Formrite currently employing about 95 people at its plant, 1816 10th St., in 100,000 square feet of manufacturing space.
Wage said he is discussing expansion of the plant with state and city of Two Rivers officials and has received technical assistance from the Economic Development
Corporation of Manitowoc County.
He said he would be seeking a state customized training labor grant to help improve employees' production skills.
Wage said he was very impressed with the response of state officials as he was seeking the new Caterpillar contract.
After talking with Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch's chief of staff, Wage said he quickly got a phone call from Kleefisch.
"She said, 'Dave, rest assured the state will do everything it can do … tell Caterpillar you are working with the state on funding
for this project,'" Wage recalled.
He also received a phone call the same day from Paul Jadin, president of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., pledging support.
Wage said this was on the same day he read about fisticuffs between state Supreme Court justices. Wage said his state outlook brightened.
He said the new state officials' prompt assistance had nothing to do with political favoritism to a major donor — Wage contributed $250 to Gov. Scott Walker's election campaign.
"It is just their job" to stimulate economic development as part of Walker's theme that "Wisconsin is open for business," Wage said.
Took it personally
Wage said he was paid one of the bigger compliments of his business career by Caterpillar officials who said, "You wowed us … have made our decision easy."
"If we didn't get this contract I would have been demoralized … not because of (any devastating) financial
impact to us and our community but I am really passionate about business and what I am doing.
"If Caterpillar had said they were going to go in a different direction, I would have taken this personally … but I feel great," Wage said of the new business that "can't all fit into our existing facility."
Caterpillar has represented about a quarter of Formrite's business but that share will increase, Wage said. It has other customers in construction and mining, as well as agricultural, furniture and lawn care equipment.
Wage continues to direct Heavy Metal Fabricators in Manitowoc, which has about 30 employees.