Expansion has Black Bros. thinking big

MENDOTA, IL — Black Bros. Co. is excited to announce progress has begun on an additional 18,000-square-feet of manufacturing space at its headquarters. The new building will house the company’s roll department, where the complete process of steel-roll machining and rubber vulcanization takes place.

“We always planned to rebuild after we took down the (five storage units),” said COO Jeff Simonton, who estimated the project to be the eighteenth Black Bros. expansion since establishing homebase in 1900. “We considered a new laboratory or warehousing, but it just made the most sense to bring the Roll Department up to date since it’s currently in the oldest part of our building — over 100 years old. It will provide a far better working environment, a very nice, clean space with climate control and a more efficient workflow.”

Along with personal comforts, Simonton said maintaining a constant temperature will also bring benefits to the machinery manufacturer’s rubber bonding.

“Rubber is like a musical instrument; it expands and contracts with different weather. We believe tightening up the temperature range is key to having more consistency in the complete manufacturing of the rolls,” he said. “We also hope to get some new equipment in there, a new lathe that will do more than one process and allow for less handling of the roll.”

The last time Black Bros. broke ground was 2000, when a 42,000-square-foot addition nearly doubled the overall floorspace at the laminating and roll coating equipment manufacturer’s location. With the 2024 addition, Black Bros. will grow to just under 100,000-square-feet.     

Sixth-generation owner, Evan Carroll, echoed Simonton’s sentiments. “The new building will not only increase our footprint, but our manufacturing capabilities as a whole. And being able to better control the interior climate and having a modern workspace can only be a big bonus for employees in that area.”

The new expansion space was formally home to five adjoining storage buildings, which were removed in 2019 due to environmental concerns unrelated to Black Bros. operations. Phalen Steel Construction Company — also headquartered in Mendota, IL — will oversee the project as General Contractor. Completion is scheduled for this fall.

“It’s great to have people in the community involved — nice work for Mendota and area subcontractors,” said Simonton. “It will bring some good economics to the city and show folks Black Bros. is committed to being here, committed to one another. Hopefully the new building is just another stepping stone to growth down the road for the next chapter of Black Bros.”

As for the fate of the original factory building built in 1907? Carroll said the building would serve as storage space for the immediate future.

“At some point, though, it will probably be torn down,” he admitted. “I’d imagine it won’t be until there’s a solid plan in place to, ideally, expand and reuse the area. All options are on the table.”

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