Martin Wheel, a Kenda Rubber company, held a groundbreaking ceremony Nov. 8 for a new 198,000-sq.-ft. production and office facility in Kent, Ohio. Kenda, founded in Yuanlin, Taiwan in 1962 to produce bicycle tires, said the new facility will produce steel wheels for “slow speed” applications like lawn and garden, ATV/UTV and industrial use. The facility will also have equipment to provide tire and wheel assemblies sold as a unit, which Kenda said is often more convenient and cost-effective than replacing just the tires for many applications.
Kenda Chairman Jimmy Yang said the over $20 million project will increase manufacturing capabilities and capacity for Martin Wheel, which Kenda acquired in 1999. He said the new facility will enable Martin Wheel to significantly boost production and office space in one location.
“The new Martin Wheel facility will give us almost 200,000 square feet, up from 130,000 currently, but it’s going to be all under one roof,” Yang continued, “It’s going to be so efficient.”
On top of producing at least 20,000 wheels per day, Yang said the manufacturing facility is being built with ESG initiatives and compliance in mind. He said the new facility will feature skylights and solar panels, as well as updated equipment with an emphasis on sustainability.
Yang said the expansion will allow Martin Wheel to continue its growth in the area and is expected to add more than 40 new jobs in wheel manufacturing, assembly and offices. As for how this facility could help distribution, Yang said the plan is to continue growth overall for Kenda and Martin Wheel through its multi-faceted approach.
“Martin Wheel does manufacturing and assembly – we sell through some manufacturing OEMs and then we also sell to the aftermarket,” Yang explained. “When we sell to the aftermarket, we sell through some specialty distributors. In these other divisions, we’ve helped supply things that others can’t get from other areas in the industry. We want to sell and make money, but at the end of the day, we’re looking at how we solve problems for what people need.”
Construction on the new facility is slated for completion in 2024. Kenda leadership said it plans to continue growing the Martin Wheel operations in the future, with this being a great step in that direction.
“This new building will allow Martin Wheel to continue the growth that we have seen in the area as we expand our team here in Ohio,” Yang said. “The old facility certainly limited the growth potential because the operation was not efficient. The shipments and customer service were not ideal, so we are looking to improve on that the next few years with this new location.”