Going Up! Impressive Growth in Emmet, Antrim Counties

Going Up

Impressive Growth in Emmet, Antrim Counties

Although best known as a little port city that bustles in the summer, Petoskey boasts some mighty big economic attractions, too

By Al Parker

In spite of Michigan's somewhat sluggish economy, several companies in Petoskey, our neighbor to the north, are posting some impressive numbers. Here's a look at three of them.


Spend any time at all in northern Michigan and you'll recognize the Kilwin's name as a family-friendly place to satisfy your sweet tooth.

But did you know that Kilwin's is also one of America's most successful franchise corporations, with more than 80 stores operating in 18 states ranging from New Hampshire to Colorado?

Kilwin's handmade chocolates, fudge and ice cream have been pleasing palates since 1947. The secret to the company's success is "simple," said marketing director Jeff Hall.

"Where the rubber meets the road, it's our high quality, our consistency and our customer service that make us successful," he said. "We offer the finest quality, traditional down-home confections and ice cream that are kitchen-made fresh from premium ingredients and original recipes."

That simple formula has enabled the company to grow from 56 stores in 2006 to 80 today. This summer alone there will be new Kilwin's shops in Grand Rapids, Chicago, Lakeland, Fla., Portsmouth, N.H., and Madison, Wis.

"We're trying to open 12 to 15 new stores a year," said Hall.

In 2011, Kilwin's purchased and remodeled a vacant grocery store in Petoskey, turning it into a facility for manufacturing, corporate headquarters and a retail showroom where guests can buy chocolates and ice cream.

"What was once an out-of-the-way manufacturing facility is now a highly visible tourist attraction for our community," said Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce president Carlin Smith. "The community is most pleased that Kilwin's was able to take a large vacant building in a highly visible location and bring new life to that building and new energy to that part of town. Without Kilwin's investment, we would likely still have a vacant building right along the highway."

Petoskey Plastics

Since 1970, Petoskey Plastics has been manufacturing blown plastic film and bags engineered for performance. The company is an industry leader, supplying the automotive, recycling, food, retail, packaging and construction industries.

In addition to the original Petoskey plant, the company operates a second manufacturing facility in Morristown, Tenn. and a 300,000-square foot recycling and distribution center in Hartford City, Ind.

Sales for the most recent fiscal year were more than $85 million. The company has 265 full-time employees.

"This is a company that started very small and has grown steadily over the years to become a significant employer in the Petoskey area," said Smith. "It is a great corporate citizen that practices green manufacturing methods and treats its employees very well. We're fortunate to have this kind of industry here in the Petoskey area."

Petoskey Plastics was an early industry pioneer in recycling, beginning in 1978. Its Greencore Solutions program takes plastic out of the waste stream and puts it back into products. It enables the company to provide customers with high-performance polyethylene products that are environmentally sound.

Circuit Controls Corporation

Circuit Controls Corporation (CCC) has been a manufacturer of automotive electrical terminals since its founding in 1959. The company's high-speed precision stamping presses and gold plating equipment makes it one of the world's leaders in auto electrical components.

"We are what's known as a second-tier automotive supplier, so our products go to any car manufacturer that you can think of," says president and CEO Tom Mason.

With 160 employees, CCC produces some 30 million electrical terminals a day from 48 stamping presses at its Petoskey plant. To keep up with demand, CCC operates three shifts a day, five days a week.

Mason expects to increase staff seven to 10 percent in the coming year. About 70 percent of those positions would be manufacturing jobs, the rest in professional positions.

"It's pretty amazing that a small, out-of-the way town like Petoskey is the headquarters for such significant manufacturing businesses," said Smith. "To me this says a lot about the entrepreneurial environment of the Petoskey area; we're providing an environment where entrepreneurs can succeed in the community where they want to live."

CCC became a wholly owned subsidiary of American Yazaki Corporation in 1986. Yazaki is a privately owned $14 billion corporation that employs 200,000 people.

"If you look at distribution routes and population numbers, Petoskey probably wouldn't be an industry's first choice," said Smith. "But these businesses all started here and the executives all enjoy the quality of life here. There was never any reason to go anywhere else. They made it work." BN