Bill Wakal said the Starke County Economic Development Foundation helped him find the perfect spot for his business.
He approached the foundation in 2022 looking for an existing building, but soon discovered the Knox Industrial Park where he decided to build.
Officials broke ground on the Wakal Machining LLC facility on May 8 at 205 Kloeckner Drive. The machining shop will house equipment and supplies, and have space for cutting, fabricating and finishing products. Wakal will employ two workers to start when he opens the shop in September, with hopes to add two more in the next year.
“Our client base is farmers and any business that has a maintenance department,” Wakal said in a press release. “We hope to be able to serve Valparaiso, La Porte, Walkerton, Plymouth, Culver, Winamac and surrounding areas initially, and branch out further into Northern Indiana and beyond as we grow.”
He said he sees a need in the Knox area because the nearest shop to provide similar services is 1.5 hours away. He plans to serve the manufacturing, aerospace, automotive, farming and construction industries.
“We chose to start our business in Knox because we saw a need for a machine shop in Starke County,” Wakal said. “The Knox Industrial Park is an ideal location because of the proximity to many of our clients, which will help us to better serve their needs.”
Wakal has 25 years experience as a tool and die maker. His wife, Sherry, will help with the business side of operations, and his son plans to join them when he graduates from college.
“We hope this opens the door for other small businesses to consider locating in Starke County,” Wakal said. “The city of Knox and the Starke County Economic Development Foundation have been a positive force behind the success of us starting this business.”
Bill Wakal plans to work with the North Central Careers and Technical Education Cooperative and hire graduates who complete the machining program at Ivy Tech Community College.
“Their long-term plans will also create career opportunities for local students and encourage them to remain in Starke County after they graduate,” SCEDF Executive Director Lisa Dan said. “That is so important to our county as we continue to strengthen our niche as a best-of-both worlds destination in proximity to Chicago, South Bend and Indianapolis with an affordable cost of living, unmatched natural resources, and friendly and welcoming communities.”
Dan said the organization sold the Wakals land in the industrial park. The foundation still owns 51 acres in there.
The Starke County Economic Development Foundation is a not-for-profit local economic development organization, which serves Starke County, the city of Knox, and the towns of North Judson and Hamlet.
Caption: The Starke County Economic Development Foundation celebrated a groundbreaking May 8 with the Wakal family, who are building a facility in the Knox Industrial Park to house Wakal Machining LLC. (Provided by SCEDF)