Local industry celebrates 50 years of manufacturing

If you’ve ridden the Tower of Terror at Disney World, you may not have realized it contains parts made by a Seymour industry.

If you’ve been on an Otis elevator, a part made by the same manufacturer could be on it.

That company also makes parts for Jeep Wranglers, Toyota Camrys, Ford F150s, diesel engines, recreational vehicle chassis, generators and agricultural equipment, among a few other things.

Since Excel Manufacturing Inc. moved to its current location in the Eastside Industrial Park at 1705 E. Fourth St. in 1995, it has focused on production machining.

But when Delbert Kilgas and Dick Elmore started the business as Excel Tool Inc. on Jan. 1, 1967, it was in the tool and die market, making tools for manufacturers to use.

As the company celebrates 50 years in business, Kilgas recently decided to hand over the president’s role to his son, Brent Kilgas.

Delbert said he is glad to see the business still going strong. He credits that to good relationships with customers and employees.

“You build relationships with different people from all these different companies, and they build relationships between them, as well. It’s just like a family. I always compare it to a family. It’s a family business,” he said.

“The reason companies fail so many times in doing that is they try to sap out all of the capital,” he said. “You sap out all of the capital in the company, it can’t grow. Most of the growth usually comes from inside. That’s very important.”

Kilgas and Elmore had worked together at King Industrial Corp. in Seymour for eight years before deciding to start their own business.

“We got together and talked about going into business. That went on for probably three months,” Delbert said. “We tried to figure out how to get some cash together.”

They each contributed $10,000 to get Excel Tool Inc. going in a 2,500-square-foot building at 212 E. Second St.

“That took everything that each one of us could scrape together,” Delbert said.

The first couple of years were tough and involved a lot of long workdays, he said.

At the time, Delbert and his wife, Marlis, had three children, and Elmore and his wife, Patty, had four kids.

“The men worked long, long hours, so a lot of the responsibility for keeping the family going on the homefront, Patty and I kept busy,” Marlis said, smiling.

By the end of the second year, the company had nine employees and seven machines.

The growth in business and the number and size of machines forced them to search for a new building, which they found at 2020 First Ave. in the Freeman Field Industrial Park. It was 10,000 square feet.

Customers included General Motors, Arvin Industries and Cummins Inc.

“We did work for people, and they liked that, and at the time, there was a lot of growth in the tooling business,” Delbert said. “We tacked onto that and did better.”

The business remained at the facility until 1995, growing to 50,000 square feet and 125 employees.

About half of that workforce moved to Excel Manufacturing when it opened Jan. 1, 1996. Brent came on board and took ownership with his father, while Elmore and his son, Jay, continued to operate Excel Tool.

The Fourth Street facility was built in the late 1980s as a spec building when the Eastside Industrial Park was created. Home Products International made ironing board covers in the building until 1994, and Excel Manufacturing started moving in in 1995.

There have been a couple of additions to the building since then, growing from 30,000 to 82,000 square feet of manufacturing space.

Read the full story in Saturday’s Tribune and online at tribtown.com.

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.