‘Pumped’ about manufacturing in Kamas
July 5, 2011
Some people doubt the ability of Summit County to attract more manufacturing businesses and thereby diversify the economy.
White Knight Fluid Handling in Kamas is proof that it can be done, and done well.
Since completing a brand new plant in the outline of a castle four years ago this summer, the company has prospered and expanded its workforce by about 70 percent with almost all of the 50-plus employees living along the Wasatch Back.
"Quite a few people want to work here," said Richard Kuhn, vice president of sales and marketing.
And except for scraps and waste, most of which is recycled, the plant emits no pollution, he said.
White Knight makes high-end chemical pumps for factories that produce microchips, photovoltaic cells and LED flat screens.
Recommended Stories For You
When the recession froze capital markets, new factories could not be built, and White Knight endured a few tough months. But demand for consumer electronics and solar panels has business booming now, Kuhn said.
"The last 14 months have been phenomenal," he added.
The company holds several patents and no one else can make their product or at least not as well. That means instead of losing business to cheap manufacturers in China, they are some of his best customers.
To not contaminate semiconductors with traces of metal, White Knight’s pumps are made of Teflon in the form of Polytetrafluoroethylene and Polypropylene that look like square blocks of white plastic. The Kamas plant bakes raw, white powder into the blocks, then uses basic Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining to carve the blocks into pump parts.
The simplicity of the procedure makes it possible for locals to qualify for White Knight’s job openings; there’s no need to locate in Silicon Valley for specialized technicians.
In fact, White Knight used to be based in one of the nation’s top manufacturing hubs: Michigan. The owners decided to relocate and take advantage of Utah’s pro-business environment while moving closer to its distribution channels in California. The owners, John, Tom and David Simmons, have family ties to the Kamas Valley.
focusing on a niche market, and providing quality products, White Knight has been able to compete on a global scale.
"This is so different from what’s going on in the macro-world of business. It’s so interesting," Kuhn said. "People think you can’t compete in manufacturing and to do that is beyond the realm of possibility."
The company is also planning for future growth. As markets in China and Germany demand more solar power, White Knight is tweaking its product line to better serve the needs of the factories that make the panels.
It is also striving to make White Knight a better place to work, said company spokeswoman Sherrelle Pontarelli. It offers special paid days off to permit employees to spend quality time with parents, grandparents, children or grandchildren, or to perform community service. White Knight also rewards safety, efficiency and company loyalty with special bonus programs, she said.