Vixen Composites LLC has announced its management team in anticipation of startup operations this quarter at 2965 LaVanture Place in Elkhart, Ind. The newly established company announced last January that it was investing $6.1 million in equipment and improvements to the 98,000-square-foot LaVanture Place facility, which will serve as Vixen’s manufacturing headquarters.
Gregg Fore, president of Vixen, said startup plans are on schedule and the new company is primed to make an impact in the RV industry. Vixen specializes in structural and exterior composite panels that allow RVs to become more lightweight while also improving structural integrity and durability. Vixen will also serve the commercial trailer, trucking and marine markets. It is affiliated with Dicor Corp., a long-time supplier for the RV industry located in Elkhart. Fore is also president of Dicor.
“We see this as a great opportunity to work with our RV manufacturing partners in building a better RV. We intend to be on the leading edge of wood-free, composite technology. Lighter, sturdier and trouble-free after the sale is what the market is demanding,” said Fore. “We’re very confident the core management group we have assembled will enable us to expertly serve that demand.”
Gordon Frost will serve as Vixen general manager. Frost has more than 21 years of engineering, manufacturing and marketing experience, most recently serving as Dicor’s product manager, construction materials. Prior to his association with Dicor, Frost worked nine years for Owens Corning — Fabwel Division/Crane Composites. During that tenure he served as technical director/technical leader, manager of research and development, and application engineer.
He also received the Slayter Award for Innovation for his work in developing the CTEC all-composite, wood-free, high-gloss exterior sidewall RV sidewall panel. He holds multiple U.S. patents and is Six Sigma Black Belt trained.
Joe Kromkowski will be director of operations. Kromkowski comes to Vixen from General Sheet Metal Works of South Bend and Tomah, Wis., where he served as director, production operations. In this capacity he led an operations team that included production, engineering, ISO 9001 quality management and continuous improvement of both the South Bend and Tomah facilities. Prior to that he was vice president, operations for Tydenbrammall, Angola, Ind., where he directed financial/business and operational enhancements for the manufacture of high volume cargo security seals.
Other positions over his 28-year career have included director of corporate engineering and quality, project engineer, and senior automation engineer. He is also Six Sigma Black Belt trained.
Tom Conn has been named director of sales. Conn has 25 years of industry sales experience, including sales manager for Alpha Systems LLC of Elkhart, a manufacturer of products for the RV, marine and manufactured housing industries. He has also held the position of vice president for Mito Corp., a distributor of 12-volt automotive aftermarket products.
Vixen plans to create up to 34 new jobs by 2012. “We expect our team to make Vixen a leader in its field, and that includes the same service, resourcefulness and reliability that Dicor Corp. and its affiliated companies are known for,” Fore said.
For more information about Dicor Corp., its products and affiliated companies, visit www.dicor.com.
Watch today’s Featured Video on Dicor.
Coming out of this past winter’s Louisville Show, Dicor Corp. President Gregg Fore essentially threw down the gauntlet to his RV industry supplier peers by listing an array of new products Dicor and its affiliated companies were bringing to the table in 2009 and 2010. In so doing, he said he was “challenging the status quo” and “setting a tone for the RV industry to think differently when it comes to new product design and the choice of options that are now available.”
Now, he’s apparently taking that challenge to the next level with a plan to reinvent the composite side panel business by launching a new company that will build lightweight RV sidewalls and other structural components called Vixen Composites LLC. Toward that end, Vixen is currently installing $6.1 million in equipment in a once-vacant plant on the northwest side of Elkhart, Ind.
“We’re in the process now of setting up the facility and the equipment,” Fore said in an interview. “We expect to be running limited production sometime in the third quarter and hopefully be in full production by the fourth quarter of 2010.”
Fact is, as Fore points out in a new RVBUSINESS.com video, the recession hasn’t prevented the Elkhart-based Dicor group of companies, including Alta Resources LLC, Seal Design LLC, United Shade LLC and Dicor Corp., from moving ahead on all fronts.
“Well, there’s never not a time to do new things,” says Fore, “and Dicor spent over two years in developing the (composite wall) process because we believe that lighter weight is here to stay. We believe that structural integrity is a more important factor than it has been before and we’ve developed a process using old and new technology mixed together to provide a product that’s lighter and more sustainable.
“The manufacturing process allows us to build a panel that is not susceptible to some of the same kind of warranty issues that people have experienced in the past.”
Fore says that Vixen’s products, which contain no wood and resist mold, are to appeal to other markets utilizing “high gloss finished products.”
“The market we believe is actually larger outside the RV business than it is inside the RV business,” adds Fore, who serves as president of both Dicor and Vixen. “We’re focusing to start out with exterior panels because it’s one of the most difficult things to do, but we expect very soon to stretch out into the commercial trucking industry and into the residential, military and marine markets.”
Vixen in January obtained $224,000 in property tax abatement over five years from the Elkhart City Council. Approval of the tax abatement also made Vixen, which plans to employ 34 people by 2012, eligible for $320,000 in state incentives, including tax credits and training grants.
Vixen Composites LLC, a sister company to privately held Dicor Corp., Elkhart, Ind., plans to start manufacturing lightweight composite side panels and structural components for the RV and other industries by the end of summer.
“Our intent was to determine if we could scale up technology to a size that had applications in not only the RV industry but other markets that use similar structural and aesthetic components,” said Dicor President Gregg Fore, who also is president of Vixen.
Vixen last week received $224,000 in property tax abatement over five years from the Elkhart City Council. Approval of the tax abatement also made Vixen eligible for $320,000 in state incentives, including tax credits and training grants.
Vixen, which will occupy a vacant industrial building on Elkhart’s northwest side, will employ 34 people by 2012 after $6.1 million in equipment is installed later this year.
“It’s all about being lightweight,” Fore told RVBUSINESS.com. “The target was to be 10% lighter than current product that is being used. On wall panels, we’ve exceeded that target.”
He said Vixen sidewalls will be marketed to RV manufacturers and others that make high-gloss finished products.
“The same basic product that can be produced off this equipment has applications in the marine industry, step van and commercial truck markets and the military,” Fore said. “The common denominator is that it’s a lightweight structural product that has no wood, will not absorb water and will not mold. It fits a lot of applications because of that. There are identifiable differences between this product and what other products do.”
Installation of equipment will be completed by the end of the second quarter.
“It is primarily existing technology that has been scaled to a size with some new technology mixed in,” Fore said. “We don’t know that any company anywhere is producing it on this scale. If we had found someone who was, we would have bought the company.”
Dicor is a supplier of synthetic roofing and related components to the RV industry in addition to decorative wheel covers. Another “associated” company, United Shade LLC, manufactures and distributes interior window coverings to the RV industry while another company, Alta Resources LLC, markets windshield wipers for the construction and agricultural markets along with remote motor controls.
Yet anothr Dicor-assocated firm, Seal Design LLC, designs and distributes a wide variety of sealant products to the step van and RV builders.
All Dicor-affiliated companies are located in Elkhart.
“If you look at our products, you don’t see a lot of them that are related,” said Fore, who is on track to become chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) in October. “We look for opportunities in markets that we understand and then find the right people and partners to move ahead.”