Partly due to the world’s thirst for fresh water, Fluid Equipment Development Co. ( FEDCO) has started work on an estimated $5 million expansion of its Monroe plant that will nearly double its size and create more jobs.

“It’s due to our growing business and increases in our business lines,” said Eli Oklejas, president of the firm that designs and makes energy-recovery devices, high ­efficiency pumps and water-purification equipment.

Site preparation has begun on a 55,000- square- foot addition next to the company’s existing 77,000-square ­foot plant at 800 Ternes Dr. in the City of Monroe’s industrial park near I-75.

About 12,000 square feet of the addition will be office space.

“ We are moving earth now and we expect it to be completed in April, 2014,” Mr. Oklejas said.

The business operates on a five-acre site and acquired an additional five acres to accommodate the expansion, which will extend a wing to the north and east from the present building.

It will mean more jobs, but the precise number has not been determined, said Lisa Leachman, vice president of finance and human resources. The company employs about 70 people.

Part of the reason for the expansion is the increasing global demand for fresh water. FEDCO pumps and energy recovery devices are used in some of the world’s largest reverse osmosis seawater desalination plants.

“ We’re looking forward to doing more business in China,” Mr. Oklejas said. “ The seawater desalination market really is our growth area.”

Plans also are to continue to diversify the company’s product line and increase its domestic market. Currently, about 70 percent of its business is in other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Singa­pore, Dubai, India, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mexico and Spain.

Mr. Oklejas said the expansion has been in the discussion and planning stages for several years.

He said Fifth Third Bank has been accommodating to the company and the City of Monroe has been fantastic to work with.

Dan Swallow, director of community and economic development for the city, said the city “ is very encouraged to see a home- grown, local com­pany succeed at the inter­national level.”

He said staff and city officials have tried to support the firm’s growth plans and streamline its review processes for them, and the city plan­ning commission recently unanimously approved the site plan for the expansion.

The city also expects to grant a 50 percent tax abatement for the expansion, so it will add tax revenues as well as new jobs.

“ FEDCO continues to be an excellent private partner with the city,” Mr. Swallow said. “ In addi­tion to the significant in­vestments the company has made, they have also helped the city and our economic development partners showcase the business environment in the Monroe area, includ­ing hosting informational sessions with potential new businesses.”

Tim Lake, president of the Monroe County Busi­ness Development Corp., a nonprofit agency that helps companies settle or expand in the county, said the expansion is exciting because at one point the firm was considering ex­isting facilities in the To­ledo area and the project will have multiple benefits in the Monroe area.

“FEDCO is another ex­ample of a home- grown Monroe County company that has added so much to our community,” Mr. Lake said. “ The value they add to our region in economic impact is meaningful. Ad­ditionally, the industry sector they work in helps us further diversify our manufacturing base in the county, thereby adding to a more stable economy.”

The project is the fourth significant expansion for the firm, which was founded in August, 1997, as a partnership between Mr. Oklejas and Osmonics Inc. From 2003 through 2006, General Electric was a partner with the com­pany, but since then it has been 100 percent privately owned.

Last year, it formed a joint venture with To­rishima Pump Mfg. Co. of Osaka, Japan, called Advanced Pumps Inter­national, which is geared to supply pumping equip­ment for the oil and gas industries.

Reprinted from Monroe Evening News

by Charles Slat