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At a glance
Novae Corp.
Business: Novae makes open and closed utility trailers, commercial lawn equipment, and agricultural and industrial material handling systems.
Founded: 1995
Ownership: Privately owned by brothers Steve and Mike Bermes and business partner Chris Storie
Locations: Three, including headquarters in Markle
Employees: About 350, including 45 in Columbia City
2013 revenue: Projected at $57 million

Novae to show off Whitley digs

30 jobs created over 18 months

When the Bermes brothers were trying to come up with a name for their new company, they turned to their sister.

“How do you say ‘innovation’ in Latin?” they asked.

Thus, Novae Corp. was born.

Almost 20 years later, the manufacturer is celebrating a $1 million business investment that has transformed a vacant, 70-year-old building into an active operation in Whitley County and created 30 new jobs to date.

Columbia City officials are hosting an open house at 1 p.m. today at the plant, 643 W. Ellsworth St.

Novae moved into the 150,000-square-foot building more than 18 months ago, but it’s only now fit for company.

“It was in bad shape when we moved in,” Steve Bermes said. “It wasn’t really presentable until just about a month ago.”

The company makes open and closed utility trailers, commercial lawn equipment, and agricultural and industrial material handling systems. Contractors and landscapers are among its customers.

The operation was in the South Chauncey Street building formerly occupied by Cardinal Grain Systems Inc. Novae acquired Cardinal in 2008.

Bermes, president and CEO, said his Columbia City workforce has grown to 45 from 15 since the operation moved into its renovated home. Companywide, Novae employs about 350.

Novae’s sales have been increasing at 20 percent to 25 percent a year, he said. Jobs are part of that equation.

“We certainly expect to grow our revenue. And to do that, we need more people,” Bermes said.

Indiana offered the company an incentive for hiring. And Whitley County officials forgave unpaid back taxes on the property, allowing Novae to start with a clean slate.

Alan Tio, president of the Whitley County Economic Development Corp., has worked with Bermes on the project for about two years.

“It’s good to see the building here reused,” he said.

George Schrumpf, Whitley County commissioner, said that by taking a building off the brownfield inventory, Novae is providing jobs and paying taxes. Those are two more steps, he said, in helping Whitley recover from the recent recession.