'Building the dream'

About 400 celebrate Ground Force expansion; New Cat deal to create 100 more jobs

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JEROME A. POLLOS/Press Gov. Butch Otter squeezes past a tire after inspecting the construction of a 5,500-gallon fuel truck Monday produced by Ground Force Manufacturing in Post Falls. The industrial equipment company unveiled its new facilities that has allowed it to expand its manufacturing capabilities.

POST FALLS - Three months ago, Brad Faber admits he was near rock bottom.

"I wasn't having the greatest life," the Coeur d'Alene man said.

Faber is one of about 100 people who were recently hired due to the expansion of the Post Falls-based Ground Force Worldwide mining equipment manufacturer celebrated by about 400, including Gov. Butch Otter, on Monday.

"The way they treat people, I'm going to stick with this job a long time," said Faber, a maintenance worker. "This is the best job I've ever had. I've set goals in my life and plan to retire here. It's a good feeling of placement here."

Igniting the expansion, which includes a new 85,000-square-foot factory across Seltice Way from Ground Force's original plant and main office, is the booming mining industry and Ground Force capturing the underground mining market.

Ground Force Manufacturing will operate out of the new facility and Underground Force will be in the plant on the south side of Seltice.

"At Ground Force, we believe in creating the team and building the dream," said Ron Nilson, Ground Force president and CEO.

Nilson announced at the event that Ground Force, which builds massive equipment for Caterpillar, recently signed a contract with the company to build Cat's first underground mining motor grader.

"That will bring another 100-plus jobs to North Idaho," Nilson said.

Nilson told Otter during a tour of the facility that Ground Force expects to build about 60 of the graders at $400,000 each.

The $7.5 million facility expansion will more than triple Ground Force's production.

Another $1 million will be invested in the original facility in Post Falls and a $1 million expansion is planned for Peru. The company also operates a plant in Plummer.

The four factories with about 250 employees is a dramatic turnaround from when the company was on the verge of bankruptcy several years ago and going through layoffs.

Nilson credited his employees for being a part of the success story.

"Our workforce is the heart of our company," he said. "We take pride in all we do and it shows. This is the house that you built."

Nilson said he's also proud that the company has been able to make a difference in the community, supporting organizations and providing a warming shelter over the winter.

Otter said Ground Force's expansion is a shining example of what can happen when a community, employees, technology and faith in the future come together during tough times.

"When you get into a mud hole, don't stop," Otter said. "Keep going."

Otter said the expansion also shows how trade missions can pay off. Ground Force does much of its business overseas and Nilson has been on three missions to further tap the international market.

Idaho Department of Commerce Director Jeff Sayer calls Ground Force "an incredible story."

"It's a business that has taken care of its customers, its employees and the community," he said.

Post Falls Mayor Clay Larkin said expansions don't come without risks.

"You've laid it all on the line and we thank you," Larkin told Nilson. "This is the American dream to grow a business and you've done that."

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