FAIRMONT - In five years, Kahler Automation has grown from 25 employees to 50. The owner plans to continue on that trajectory, ever growing to meet the worldwide demand for customized, automated services.
Kahler Automation creates and installs control and data collection systems that measure bulk materials, such as grain, seed, lubricant and sand. The company also develops software and systems to manage the mixing and distribution of these products.
When Wayne Kahler moved the business to its current location in Fairmont's west industrial park, the 21,000-square foot facility was built with extra space to accommodate growth.
HARD?AT?IT?— Employees are seen working on the production floor at Kahler Automation, where control and data collection systems are designed and fabricated.
"It's all full now," Kahler said. "... We have people doubled up in offices."
Expansion plans are under way to add 15,000 square feet to the site. The addition would mainly house the company's production and manufacturing elements, with room to develop office space at a later date.
"I don't see any reason we wouldn't continue to grow at four to five people a year," Kahler said.
Though the world economy is steeped in uncertainty, agriculture-based industries are doing well as a whole.
"We're fortunate we're in the Midwest," Kahler said.
That's not to say the company's customers are limited to this area.
With clients in all 50 states and Canada, Kahler Automation has fairly well saturated the domestic market, though new opportunities are always on the horizon. The "fracking" industry, for instance, has provided Kahler Automation with clients in Louisiana, Texas, North Dakota and other parts of North America. Automated systems are needed to measure and monitor the large quantities of sand used in induced hydraulic fracturing. Mixed with hydraulic fluids, the sand is used to induce fractures in the Earth's rock layers to release and extract petroleum and natural gas.
"We're constantly expanding our market," Kahler said.
Kahler Automation has also made its presence known at blending and bagging plants in Argentina and South Africa. This is just the beginning in terms of international growth opportunities, thanks to the relationship the Fairmont-based company has developed with globally connected U.S. manufacturers.
"The international marketplace is quite large, and it's kind of been in infancy in terms of utilizing the type of technology we're offering," Kahler said.
To assist with its expansion plans, Kahler Automation has asked the city of Fairmont to approve a TIF district. Tax-increment financing is an economic development tool to provide some initial real estate tax relief for qualifying companies.
Fairmont City Council has set a public hearing for 5:30 p.m. Sept. 24 at City Hall to consider the request.