MCALLEN, RGV – Sometimes, when a major manufacturer moves its operations, its suppliers feel the need to move with them.

That was the case with London, Ontario-based Priority Tooling Solutions. The company, which manufactures high-quality precision plastic injection molds, moved to McAllen in 2012, initially housed within South Texas College’s technology campus.

On Thursday, PTS held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new home, inside the McAllen Foreign Trade Zone. 

“We started out in 1989 as small tooling company. Within ten years we had grown to a 40-man tool shop, toolmakers, and an eight man design team. Then we witnessed our customers migrating. It is a changing world and we had to change with it,” said Paul Kerkhof, president of PTS.

“We watched most of our customers migrate south to the Valley, customers like TOW, Emerson, Progressive Plastics, ATS, to name few. Some survived, some not.”

In 2006, Kerkhof and plant manager Lutz Blume came down to visit their customers. 

“We realized that 70 percent of our customer base was down here in the Valley. We had to have a presence down here,” Kerkhof said.

“In 2013/2014, South Texas offered us some space here. We took advantage of that. It was good for them, it was good for us. We did some projects with them. We have had a good relationship. We have a great future together.”

In his remarks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, plant manager Blume admitted he was homesick to start with. However, thanks to McAllen Economic Development Corporation, which had introduced the company to STC, he settled.

“We were a couple of crazy guys coming down here. I felt really uncomfortable initially. Because of your team, you made it a great experience, introducing us to STC and all the good things this area has to offer,” Blume said, acknowledging the help of Keith Patridge, president of McAllen EDC. “It has been a great ride. I am looking forward to the next few years.”

Interviewed later by the Rio Grande Guardian, Blume explained the initial difficulties in making the move.

“The climate, the people, I have never been in a U.S. city where English is the second language. The whole atmosphere was so different. Not that I did not like it. It was just so different. Not having friends. But, I had some great help. I have made this my new home. It is a very friendly area. It is actually very easy to live here, you just have to let go of the pace you have up north.”

MEDC’s Partridge spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“We are really excited about this. We started working with PTS about five years ago. They started out with STC in a small shop, with Lutz as the plant manager,” Patridge said.

Addressing Kerkhof and Blume, Patridge said:

“We are happy you are here. You are critical to the continued growth in our community. Toolmakers do not grow on trees anymore. They are getting old, most of them. We have to start working with Lutz and the other toolmakers to start developing that skill set so we can continue to grow our community. As we all know, you can’t build anything without a toolmaker. This is one of those critical skills we have to have and we are just pleased to have you and Paul here.”

Another speaker at the ribbon-cutting ceremony was McAllen City Commissioner Omar Quintanilla.

“This company has been a great addition to the local business and engineering community in providing collaborative efforts with STC and supporting an apprentice program where students get the knowledge and training to advance their careers,” Quintanilla said.

Another speaker at the ceremony was Armando Garza, Jr., deputizing for Hidalgo County Commissioner Eddie Cantu.

“This is a great opportunity to highlight the fact that we continue to grow. We are glad to have you here because it means more jobs and more prosperity for our community. We are proud to have you,” Garza said.

From PTS’s Website

Priority Tooling Solutions is a Canadian company that was started in 1989 as a one-man shop. Since then, it has grown to expand its facilities in three different countries.

Priority Tooling Solutions is a manufacturer of high-quality precision plastic injection molds. We design and build prototype and production tools, and have a tryout and production location in our South Western Ontario facility that is located in London. The products from our molds range across the board, with a mixture of 50% automotive and 50 percent non-automotive/commercial.

We offer a select number of college students to experience all aspects of our business, particularly on projects that relate to our work environment. We often work with local inventors to create projects that span the entire spectrum – including product development, engineering, mold manufacturing, inspection, production and more.

Our facility includes all aspects necessary to repair, replace, refurbish, apply engineering changes, warranty work and support production needs as required on any given project. We are fully equipped with CAD, CAM, CNC mills, CNC sink EDM’s, wire EDM’s, turning equipment, grinding equipment, micro welder, heat treating furnace, inspection equipment and more.