New tenant eyes old Bendix plant

The plant that Vincent Bendix built on South Bend’s west side could soon be back in hometown hands (401 N. Bendix Drive).

The 400,000 square-foot-plus manufacturing monster was originally built in the 1930’s to house the Bendix Corporation.

Bendix was bought out in the 1980’s, and the plant has since passed through the hands of corporate giants such as Allied-Signal, Honeywell, and Bosch.

“Bosch exited the building entirely in October of this year,” said South Bend’s Director of Economic Development Don Inks. “They remain, they do have a security and maintenance presence on the site yet.”

For the first time in a long time, it looks like the building will not be occupied by a high profile—household name type of company.

Rather, the next tenant will likely be a modest sized company with strong hometown ties.

“Our father and grandfather started this business here in South Bend, I think they’d be very proud right now,” said Andrew Heckaman with Curtis Products. “So, we didn’t look to go outside of South Bend, we decided to stay right here.”

Curtis Products is a local company that fabricates steel tubing. It is growing and competing in the present, with a keen appreciation of the past.

“In the lobby you see right now we have six people that have 40 years plus (seniority) in here,” said Curtis Products CEO David Heckaman.

Also in the lobby of Curtis Products, you’ll find a photograph of the company’s late founders. “Curtis Heckaman, and Floyd Heckaman are smiling right now,” said Andrew Heckaman, Manager of Materials.

If all goes as planned, Curtis Products will take possession of the former Bendix building in May of 2013, meaning the plant will be more than just another piece of real estate in a crowded corporate portfolio. “We feel great, happy to have a new beginning, a new phase in the Curtis Products saga,” said David Heckaman.

Curtis Products now employs 324 full time workers at four different plants in the Monroe Park area. The move to Bendix Drive would bring all operations under one roof.

A letter of intent approved today would have the company leasing the building for 12 years with an option to buy. The plant is now owned by the City of South Bend, which bought the Bendix building about ten years ago in an attempt to keep Bosch in town.

Curtis Products will pay no rent during the first two years of the lease so it can attempt to sell the buildings the company now occupies. During the first two years, Curtis will pay taxes, utilities and the maintenance costs of the building.

The City of South Bend has also agreed to make some $250,000 in improvements to the building to facilitate its new tenant. “We are extremely happy that it’s a local business that’s growing in the community that is taking over that particular facility,” said Don Inks.

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