WESLACO, Texas – The owner of Weslaco-based Kapal Industries, was faced with a challenge when the coronavirus struck – a key supplier in Mexico had been forced to close.

Displaying his renowned entrepreneurial skills, Irineo Capetillo decided to make the raw materials in house. That is now happening thanks to a major investment in new manufacturing equipment.

Among other things, Kapal builds quality cabinets for hotels, motels, apartment complexes and condominiums.

“It is true, one of our vendors in Mexico had shut down operations because of COVID. They were making components for our cabinets so we came up with the idea of starting a new company to make these components,” Capetillo said.

“Instead of building them in Mexico, we thought we could build them here in Weslaco. Now, 100 percent of the manufacturing is done locally. We are very proud of this.”

Capetillo said a lot of credit must go to Weslaco Economic Development Corporation.  

“They helped speed things up, so that we got all the permits we needed very quickly,” Capetillo said. “I cannot thank them enough for the help they have given.”

The permitting process can get bogged down in bureaucratic red tape. Not so, with Weslaco EDC, the businessman said.

“We got the permit to set up in one part of the building, fast. Then, another permit for another part of the operation. So, we were up and running quickly.”

Confronting a challenge is nothing new to Capetillo. He decided to start his business in 2008, just as recession was hitting the United States.

“We got through the recession and are so proud we moved to Weslaco. We took over an 80,000 square-foot abandoned warehouse and have not looked back.”

Growing organically, Kapal now has more than 40 full-time employees, along with a few interns from university who are learning new skills.

The new equipment that has been brought in to Kapal’s Weslaco plant cost around $400,000 on equipment. It was assembled in July and has been in full operation since.

Part of the Kapal story includes a temporary move to San Antonio. However, Capetillo said he kept looking for more space in Weslaco.

“The advantage for us is to have everything consolidated in one place. Maybe in the future we may have distribution centers in different places.”

Initially, Kapal supplied the industry in south and central Texas. However, the company’s reputation for quality has reached other parts of the country and the plan now is to pick up new customers further afield. “We promise quality, commitment and consistency,” Capetillo said.

Further renovation over the past year has occurred with the company’s offices. 

“Every time it rained hard, our office was liable to flood. One time we had damage to our computers. So, between December and February, we raised the level of the office two feet higher. So, our people are able to keep working continually.”

Asked if COVID-19 affected his business, Capetillo said: “At the beginning we shut for two weeks until we knew more about it. But, it did not impact us much because we are manufacturing a special product. We immediately redesigned the office so one employee could work alone, to ensure social distancing. We are trying to catch up with everything that was put on hold.”

Capetillo said he has plans to grow Kapal even more in Weslaco. “We need another 100,000 square feet of space. We are looking for a warehouse. There is more demand for our products. So, we want to grow around here. In total, we need 300,000 square feet for Kapal.”

Capetillo said he hopes to have around 100 employees in place by the close of 2020 projected. And, he is keen to start a training center in the Rio Grande Valley.

“There is a need for the carpentry skills our employees possess,” he said. “We want to certify how to build cabinets in a profitable way. So, I would like to start a school.”

For the past two years site selectors from Europe have visited Kapal’s Weslaco facility, thanks to Valley-wide trips organized by the Rio South Texas Economic Council. The first year the site selectors came the warehouse was pretty much a shell. The next year it was partially being used. If the site selectors can come back next January or February, they will see a production line that is humming.

“They are welcome back here any time,” Capetillo said. “We enjoyed having them.”

Asked for any wrap-up remarks, Capetillo said he was pleased to see other new businesses springing up around his business, which is located off Business 83. 

“We are proud to be bringing more jobs to Weslaco,” he said.

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