A new tenant has been found for one of the old Bendix buildings on South Bend’s west side.
Curtis Products marked the changing of the guard with ribbon cutting ceremonies today at 401 N. Bendix.
When Curtis moves in, it won’t have to move far. The company is a third generation family owned outfit that has been located in South Bend from the start.
Curtis currently operates out of four factory buildings off Bronson Street in the Monroe Park area.
“This is one of the first products, this is a original Curtis Products that we sold to Studebaker,” said President David Heckaman, holding a framed ‘spacer’ used to solve problems with Studebaker window cranks.
When Studebaker closed, Curtis Products lost a major customer—but survived.
“And so we had to go out and find some other customers,” said Heckaman. “Curtis (Sr.) the salesman went out and found other customers.” Curtis now fabricates and bends tubing for the automotive and agricultural industries.
Curtis Products now has some 380 employees. About a half dozen of those workers have been with the company for more than 40 years. “I've been here almost 44 years, my wife's like going on 43 years,” said employee Joe Papai. “I started out of high school and my wife, after we got married; she got a job working on the reception desk.”
“And we just believe that if somethings going well you should be loyal to your people and to your customers, it’s worked well for us,” said David Heckaman.
A little loyalty may be refreshing for a city that bent over backward to try and keep the last tenant in the building.
In fact, in 2000, South Bend bought the building, made improvements, and leased it back to Bosch. In exchange, Bosch promised to keep its 250 high paying engineering positions in the city, at least through 2020. It’s a promise Bosch broke by the end of 2012.
“We learned a lot over the years in South Bend. Incentives and what happens when you try, really, to chase after jobs and try to buy jobs,” said Mayor Pete Buttigieg, (D) South Bend. “But you’ve got a firm like Curtis that’s been part of South Bend for as long as I’ve been on the scene, you can tell that they believe in South Bend, that’s why South Bend believes in them.”
Curtis Products now has 380 workers and chose the old Bendix building because it has plenty of space for expansion.
Right now, Curtis Products is renovating the building. The company will begin moving machinery to the site this summer.