Dave Patterson had only one job before he started working for FLANDERS, a North Side motor repair shop co-owned by his father, Roy Patterson. In high school, Patterson stacked field tile for his uncle’s concrete manufacturing company — enough to keep the soon-to-be engineering student at the University of Evansville busy. Originally intending to study mechanical engineering, Patterson was persuaded to go electrical. “I never regretted it,” says Patterson, who transitioned from graduation to a low-runged engineering position at FLANDERS stripping armatures. Despite being raised in the family business, Patterson worked from the bottom like anyone else.
In 1974, Patterson and Jim Havens, the son of Roy’s business partner Bud Havens, purchased stock in FLANDERS and became co-owners. Patterson and Havens continued to build upon the 1947-founded company’s core business of motor repair, which was highly emphasized by the original owner, Frank Flanders, and also by Roy and Bud. The two sons, however, introduced new specialties. Armed with an education in electrical engineering, Patterson became more involved in controls and drives — the electronic brains inside of motors.
Recent years have seen Patterson, along with his three sons, make a deliberate effort to rebrand the company name — an effort initiated by FLANDERS’ development of new motor manufacturing in the 1990s. Mike Fuerstenau, a marketing consultant out of Milwaukee, was brought in last year and hired as the marketing director to assess the FLANDERS brand and come up with an aggressive marketing plan within the Evansville community.
Recognizing the size and potential of the company, Fuerstenau teamed up with AXIOM, a local advertising and communications company, to get the job done. Highlighting the growth and new services, the company shortened its name to reflect its broad scope from FLANDERS Electric to FLANDERS, and has hired more than 150 new employees at its Evansville location in the last two years. About 100 more jobs remain available.
Even for those who travel up and down U.S. Highway 41 regularly, FLANDERS isn’t easily noticeable. A somewhat haphazard gathering of buildings off the highway, the company stands among other warehouses and plants on Baumgart Road. A closer look reveals two massive plants totaling approximately 500,000 square feet — about half of FLANDERS’ global footprint.
The north plant is home to FLANDERS’ new manufacturing operations and serves as the hub for electrical motor assembly. Another FLANDERS facility on Maryland Street (the original 1947 location) manufactures smaller electrical motors, such as swimming pool pumps. The north plant, however, deals with much larger equipment — drives, controls, and motors ranging from 500 to 7,000 horsepower.
From shaping copper wiring, piecing together the coils, and pressing insulation to constructing main fields, everything having to do with AC and DC motor manufacturing begins in the north plant. The brains (the motor) are designed and constructed in the “panel shop,” a sectioned-off workstation in the north plant that has become one of the most important components in FLANDERS’ industry. “Our core competency is service and repair, and we’ve developed in the last 15 years motor manufacturing expertise,” Fuerstenau says. “The area that we’re really looking to grow and develop is in drives, controls, automation, and advanced technologies.”