Kirk Gadberry, president and chief operating officer of NAL, said they currently have a corporate headquarters and plant in Paris, plus factories in Flora and Salem. He said the company has a "good problem" in that its business producing a wide variety of automotive head lamps has been rapidly growing in recent years.
"We are running out of room in our current facilities in Illinois," Gadberry said. He noted that their workforce has grown from 1,000 employees in 1992 to 6,000 now.
To create more space, Gadberry said NAL will take its replacement service lamp production out of the other three facilities and move this work into a single location.
Kayla Boyll, senior-corporate branding specialist with NAL, said that after automotive manufacturers stop producing a vehicle, NAL still manufactures service lamps for a certain amount of time. She said if a vehicle owner were to get in an accident and need a new headlight or taillight, NAL's service lines can provide those replacement parts.
Gadberry said NAL was drawn to Mattoon as a service part production site because this community has a central location along Interstate 57 and because it has a building that is "ready to go" with room for possible expansion.
NAL plans to open its new factory in a former Justrite warehouse at the southwest corner of County Road 1000N and Justrite Drive, an opening that was announced on Monday. The 1000N roadway provides a direct connection to the northernmost I-57 interchange in Coles County.
In addition, Gadberry said Coles County has a population size of more than 50,000 that he feels can support an operation such as the planned NAL factory. He said NAL will start hiring in September for the plant's initial 25-30 employees and then grow to 75-100 when all of the production equipment is in place by late 2022.
"Moving large piece of equipment is a time consuming process," Gadberry said of the move.
Gadberry acknowledged that manufacturers, including NAL's existing locations, and many other industries in the region are hiring due to a worker shortage. Still, Gadberry said he is confident that NAL can keep recruiting workers by continuing to offer competitive wages and benefits. He noted that several Mattoon residents already work at the Paris plant.
In addition, Boyll said the fact that all of NAL's manufacturing facilities are climate controlled also has been attractive to prospective employees.
The new factory is slated to hire for technicians, assembly operators, production supervisors, shipping and receiving personnel, and other positions, which will be posted at www.nal.com. Boyll said NAL has worked with Lake Land College in the past on training programs, including one that trained eight current technicians at the Paris plant, and the company may work with the college further.
"Lake Land is a terrific school. We have a great relationship and they do a really good job for us," Gadberry said.
Lake Land President Josh Bullock said they are thrilled to welcome the new factory and look forward to additional opportunities with NAL for expanded collaborations, which have included fast track training in recent years.
The college reported that several alumni of Lake Land's technology and manufacturing programs are employed at the Paris plant. The Center for Business & Industry and Technology division staff have continued to work with the company over the years to train NAL employees to improve job skills for possible promotion.
Michael Beavers, who is the division chair and a technology/electrical engineering instructor, and Bonnie Moore, director to the Center for Business & Industry at Lake Land, recently met with a NAL representative to discuss the possibility of the college providing technical apprenticeship training for NAL employees.
“We are excited to see NAL open a new plant in Mattoon,” Beavers said. “I think having NAL in Mattoon will be a great benefit to the community, and I think the great people in our community will be a real benefit for NAL, as well.”