“We’ve had our wheels on Orange County Choppers and other shows,” Rob Rodems explained to me as he gave me a tour of his manufacturing operations in Jacksonville, IL (population 18,940). “I started this with my brother and sister in 2000.”
The company has over 50 different wheel designs, selling mostly to Harley Davidson riders through a series of over 3,000 dealers in its database. Increasingly the internet is becoming an important marketing tool for them, with over 500,000 hits per month on its website.
The company is an offshoot of JMI (Jacksonville Machinery Incorporated), a custom machining company that does specialty parts for companies like Caterpillar, Owens-Illinois and others. However, its main customer for many years was Pactiv, which has a major presence in Jacksonville.
Another entrepreneurial company in the town that Terry Denison, head of Jacksonville ED, took me to visit was CCK Automations. The company was started by J. J. Richardson and his wife Sherry when J. J. became disillusioned with his engineering job at Pactiv in 1994 and took the entrepreneurial plunge.
CCK has developed into a leader in the engineering, design and manufacturing of circuit boards and control panels. Its boards cover a wide range of uses as evidenced by a price range from $2.16 to $3500.00 per board.
Both companies are competing in a global marketplace but both came out of corporate bureaucracy of a big company like Pactiv. I’ve seen a number of entrepreneurial firms spawned in such a manner. They often result in other start-ups, the clustering of similar new companies and can help to shape job growth and economic prosperity in a region.