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Muskegon kayak manufacturer resumes production, Whitehall auto parts manufacturer expanding

Hemisphere Design Works is now The KL Companies Inc.

MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — Kayak production has resumed at three production facilities in the city of Muskegon that closed in the fall of 2019.

The KL Companies Inc. says since June 1 workers have built more than 64,000 boats. 

"And sold, and have like 20,000 more on order," said The KL Companies Inc. Vice President David Baun.

In October 2019, Hemisphere Design Works started shutting down production in Muskegon and laying off workers.

Baun says The KL Companies Inc. acquired all of Hemisphere Design Works assets during a liquidation sale. The sale included machinery, tooling and trademark names like Sundolphin. 

The new company has 84 workers and is looking to grow to meet demand. "We have five machines running kayaks on one full shift and we're looking to ramp up to two shifts," said Baun. 

The company's line of Sundolphin kayaks are sold at Dunham's, Dick's Sporting Goods, Wal-Mart and other retailers in U.S. and Canada. Baun believes that to keep up with demand, workers in Muskegon will need to make 150,000 to 175,000 boats in 2021. 

The company has one production facility at 2420 Remembrance and two on Sun Dolphin in the city of Muskegon.

Muskegon City Commissioners transferred a industrial facilities tax exemption certificate from Hemisphere Design Works to The KL Companies Inc. The company also makes bass boats, fishing boats, peddle boats and hunting blinds.

Another Muskegon County company adding jobs is Hilite International, an auto parts manufacturer in Whitehall. The company is projected to invest $9.6 million into its' Whitehall facility and create 108 new jobs by 2022.

The project was awarded a $400,000 Jobs Ready Michigan performance-based grant from the Michigan Strategic Fund, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The city of Whitehall is selling a 19-acre parcel in its industrial park to Hilite for $1 to make expanding in Muskegon County more attractive. 

"We were competing with a location down in Texas," said Whitehall City Manager Scott Huebler. "Hilite has been fantastic, they were the first tenant in our industrial park. 10 to 15 jobs would be great, 108 is phenomenal."

Also in Muskegon County, the multinational chemical company BASF will soon be closing its production facility in Muskegon Township.

The Muskegon Township location is one of two sites being closed. The other is in Knapsack, Germany. Both locations produce a non-selective herbicide called glufosinate-ammonium.

The company says the closures are expected to be finalized by 2022 and will affect around 100 employees at the two facilities.

BASF said in a written statement they will support employees whenever possible to pursue other opportunities within the company.

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