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CHESTERTON | Urschel Laboratories just opened its new 350,000-square-foot headquarters and manufacturing plant in Coffee Creek Center off Ind. 49 in Chesterton, but is already talking about future growth.

The company, one of Porter County's largest employers, makes slicing equipment for a wide array of food products, including bagged lettuce, potato chips, shredded cheese, pickles, relish, soup and Eskimo Pies. The global company, which is having its international sales meeting this week, has offices all over the world, including in Argentina, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, India and Thailand.

Urschel, which has been family owned since 1910, invested $80 million in the new facility as it relocated to Chesterton from Valparaiso. The engineering-driven company will do all its manufacturing on site and test new food-cutting products there.

The transition into a 40 percent larger building went smoothly, President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Urschel said.

"We had a few customers who maybe didn't get their parts on the day that they expected," he said.

"But most of our customers didn't notice anything, so that's a testament to everybody here for making that transition as smooth as it could be." 

Local and company officials gathered Monday in Chesterton for a grand opening ceremony at the new facility at 1200 Cutting Edge Drive. Urschel, which is known for making such durable equipment that it gets orders for parts 50 years later, started moving production from its original plant in Valparaiso to the new facility in the Coffee Creek master-planned development earlier this year.

Urschel, which owns a 160-acre campus in Coffee Creek, has room to grow.

"We've already started talking about the next expansion because we're growing again, which is good," Urschel said.

"The building behind me is about 40 percent larger than the Calumet Avenue plant from a square-footage number. But from a volumetric number it's two and a half times larger. If you remember, the ceilings in the old plant were rather short in parts of the plant and got taller and taller as the plant got farther back from Calumet Avenue."

Urschel has been hiring steadily over the last two years, and now has around 400 workers, Advertising Manager Debra Novello said.

They're good jobs, Chesterton Town Council member James Ton said.

"There's a saying out there," he said. "People out on the streets know it and you know it better than anybody. Once you're part of the Urschel family, you stay."

The company had been located on Calumet Avenue in Valparaiso since 1957 and expanded more than 28 times over the years until it finally ran out of space.

"Our main focus was to make sure we keep Urschel and the Urschel family in the county," said Chesterton Redevelopment Commission President Jeff Trout, who started working on bringing the manufacturer to town three years ago.

"They mean too much to the county to have them go anywhere else. To say we're proud to have them here in Chesterton is an understatement. It's a world-class organization."

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.