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Prestige Metals Helps Students Perform Experiments in Zero-Gravity

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In 2017, while learning about the solar system and space-travel, a class of second-graders in West Lafayette, Indiana asked their teacher: “Could fireflies light up in space?” Unsure of the answer, the teacher contacted Dr. Steven Collicott, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Purdue University, for help. Dr. Collicott had a suggestion to help her students learn the answer to their question: “Let’s not guess, let’s build an experiment and test it!”

The second grade class worked with students at the Aeronautics and Astronautics program of Purdue University to design a small metal box to perform their experiment that could fit in a commercial zero-gravity spacecraft. This box would contain two syringes full of the chemicals that fireflies use to light up, a switch that would combine the chemicals at the right moment, and a HD camera to capture the experiment as it happens.

Prestige Metals was contacted to manufacture the sheet metal components of the box. The box would then be assembled by the second-graders with help from the Purdue students.

After successful fundraising by the two classes, the box, now called the “Launchbox,” was ready for its voyage. Aerospace company Blue Origin has a program for suborbital payloads, where curious minds who want to perform experiments with zero-gravity can reserve space for their payload aboard the New Shepherd rocket.

In December 2017, the rocket launched, carrying with it the experiment designed by the students. It turns out the firefly chemicals reacted positively while in zero-gravity, showing fireflies can light up in space!

Inspired by this teaching moment with the second grade class, Dr. Collicott realized this could be a great opportunity for classrooms everywhere! Thus, Purdue’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics introduced a program where likeminded classes around the country can opt to receive the materials to create their own Launchbox, complete with sheet metal provided by Prestige Metals, and the necessary files to 3D-print the plastic endcaps of the box. Dr. Collicott believes by removing the step of designing and building a box that is the right size, teachers and students can focus on the experiments they are eager to perform.

Companies That Moved North of the Border Happy with Their Decision

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Prestige Metal Products’ move to Bristol, Wisconsin last year – after 40 years in Antioch, Illinois – felt like home for owner and president John Annessi. Not only did he grow up in Kenosha County, but he also commuted to Antioch from Whitewater, Wisconsin for the past 20 years (he’s since moved to Salem).

With a pressing need for a bigger space, the sheet metal fabricator had put out feelers in both Wisconsin and Illinois. The best opportunity happened to be in Bristol, at an 85,000-square-foot facility four times larger than the one in Antioch.

Not only northern Illinois companies are drawn to southeastern Wisconsin. Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc. opened its Kenosha fulfillment center in 2015. Last summer, Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group announced plans to open a massive factory in Mount Pleasant, its first in the U.S.

Even so, many companies in Lake County, Illinois, are moving into Wisconsin, enticed by lower tax rates, tons of open land and the option to have a brand new, state-of-the-art facility (as opposed to upgrading an aging one). Lighting manufacturer Kenall Manufacturing Co. relocated from Gurnee, Illinois, to Kenosha in 2014, building a 354,000-square-foot, temperature-controlled factory.

“The plant is air-conditioned, compared to our former location, where the employees were working in 95-degree-plus temperatures in mid-summer,” said Randy Hernandez, executive vice president of operations.

Kenall considered more than 50 locations in Illinois and surrounding states, boiling it down to two in Illinois and two in Wisconsin.

“Wisconsin was selected as our place for business because of its pro-business local- and state-level environments,” Hernandez said. “Wisconsin educational institutions proactively approached us with labor training, technical and management education programs. They created a huge, mutual win-win for our employees and the company.”

He also pointed to a better tax rate for manufacturers in Wisconsin than in Illinois. A trio of economic development agencies (Kenosha Area Business Alliance, Milwaukee 7 and Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.), he said, were extremely responsive, championing Kenall’s eventual relocation.

“Local governments, at both the city and county levels, worked closely with economic development entities, providing fast tracks to construction services,” Hernandez said. “They worked with us to ensure our needed amenities and business service providers from local municipalities had the capacity to satisfy operations.”

L&M Corrugated Container Corp. had a similar experience with Wisconsin’s government when inquiring about a move. Outgrowing its space, the company desperately needed to upgrade.

“We reached out to both Wisconsin and Illinois, and Wisconsin contacted us very quickly,” said president Steven Lopes, whose grandfather Dick Lopes started the business in Zion, Illinois, in 1979. “I don’t even think Illinois contacted us until we had a purchase agreement on the building.”

L&M received a call from Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch’s office within a week.

“It was kind of a no-brainer (to move into Wisconsin) after that,” Lopes said.

The new plant in Pleasant Prairie (another one is in Platteville) has a new dock, streamlined processes and a new batch of clients.

Growing pains have forced many companies into Wisconsin, including Prestige Metal Products.

“We knew we had to expand,” Annessi said. “We had a lot of longtime and younger employees who wanted to expand and move along with our journey.”

Annessi himself climbed the ranks, starting as a janitor and moving into the role of plant manager. Four years ago, he bought out the owners.

Because several employees already lived in Wisconsin, the move didn’t ruffle any feathers. But the new location does aim to bring in more Wisconsin business while still retaining Illinois clients.

“Being this close to (I-94), transportation is a breeze,” Annessi said.

Whenever a company moves to a new city, there’s a possibility employees won’t opt to move, too. Hiring and training new workers can be expensive.

“We did not lose a single employee in the move,” Lopes said.

In fact, L&M added between 20 and 30 percent more employees.

Read more: Companies that moved north of the border happy with their decision

 

 

 

BIZTimes Reports Prestige Metals Relocates to Wisconsin!

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Prestige purchased an 8-acre property at 193rd Street from Cincinnati, Ohio-based Home City Ice Company for $2.35 million, according to state records.

Prestige was founded in 1945. The company has been based in a 20,000-square-foot facility in Antioch with 25 employees who manufacture stainless steel parts that are in soft ice cream machines and topping dispensers, according to the company’s website.

They have current annual sales of $3 million to $5 million and have the goal as well as the capabilities to increase sales to over $8 million.

Read More: Visit the Milwaukee Business Times

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