Vincent Flaska, Hoist Liftruck's president, spearheaded the company's recent relocation to East Chicago from Bedford Park.
Hoist Liftruck is a nearly century-old company that makes stackers, container handlers and pneumatic forklifts that can lift as much as 57 tons. It landed a private-label deal to make pneumatic tire forklifts for Toyota Material Handling U.S.A. Inc. and needed room to grow. It ended up relocating its manufacturing operations to a larger factory in East Chicago, where it hopes to employ 500 by 2022.
Flaska, an Indiana University graduate, determined the forklift-maker could save a significant amount — up to $2 million a year — by crossing from Illinois to the land of low taxes and cheap workman's compensation insurance.
"Working with Indiana was easy, whether with the IEDC, RDA or Lake County," he said.
"There was some hesitation in the city of East Chicago, but we were promising the moon and the stars and they wanted to make sure we delivered. When we had our open house and they saw the job, it came full circle. We're really happy to be here in the community. It has a great labor pool."
Flaska and his brothers, Maxx and Luke, are the next generation of leadership for the family-owned business, which is poised to grow internationally through the Toyota deal.
"There's really no limit to how big we grow here," he said.
From foundation to empire
He's motivated to carry on the legacy of his father, Marty Flaska, president and CEO of Hoist Liftruck. His father started the business as Forklift Exchange in 1980 and then in 1994 acquired Brooklyn, New York-based Silent Hoist and Crane, which became Hoist Liftruck.
"Hoist fell into his lap, and he moved it to Chicago," he said. "I've been around the business my whole life. I want to build the foundation into an empire."
Beyond just growing his family’s forklift business, Flaska also is looking to help redevelop East Chicago, which he believes is poised to benefit from a stampede of Illinois companies across the state line.
"It’s not just real estate taxes, there’s a much friendlier business environment here," he said.
He runs Flaska Properties, which does industrial developments nationwide, including recent projects in Florida and Denver. Flaska sees potential in rehabbing older factories in East Chicago for more modern manufacturers.
"Through our experience with Vincent in the acquisition of a 550,000-square-foot industrial complex, he was very proactive and knowledgeable in all aspects of the project," said Peoples Bank Vice President Gregory Bracco. "He was forward thinking and displayed knowledge and leadership well beyond his years of experience which facilitated a smooth closing."
Flaska is so confident that more companies will come in search of a lower cost of doing business that he's looking to open a construction equipment rental site somewhere in Northwest Indiana, likely in East Chicago.
About 10 people would work in the dealership, which would also provide service and tech to its general contractor and subcontractor customers, he said. Flaska's currently scouting out potential locations for the dealership, which should occupy about 10,000 square feet of space.
'Great place to do business'
"In Northwest Indiana, it’s not vertical development. It's horizontal development where you'd need a backhoe whether you're building a home or digging electrical," he said.
Projects like the Gary/Chicago International Airport expansion show momentum in Northwest Indiana, Flaska said. He’s reached out to other manufacturing companies in Illinois to let them know about his experience in the Hoosier state.
“It’s a half-hour drive,” he said.
“People think East Chicago is corrupt and dangerous, and it’s neither of those things. It had a reputation of being just as corrupt as Chicago, but they did a good job of cleaning all that up 10 to 15 years ago. It’s been a great place to do business.”
A busy man of many endeavors, Flaksa also founded and runs Xpress Steel LLC, a steel service center that specializes in plasma cutting.
"We have a plasma cutter laser and additional service like a bending machine," Flaska said. "I bought my own plasma table. Why it works is that we’re able to utilize our scrap at Hoist as free steel. When we get a big plate of steel at Hoist, we know we’re going to have waste. We knew we could find synergies between the two."
Article originally posted on nwitimes.com