The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

September 19, 2012

Apex Homes in Snyder County lands two contracts, adds 15 jobs

MIDDLEBURG — There hasn’t been much good news in the modular housing manufacturing industry for several years, but Apex Homes is experiencing an upturn and recently hired 15 employees.

After a summer of shortened work weeks because of a decline in orders, the Route 522 company secured two large contracts earlier this month that required the hiring of additional employees.

Lynn Kuhns, recently named president of Apex Homes, said the firm is building units for a senior assisted living complex in West Virginia and will begin building units for a multi-family housing project in Philadelphia in mid-November or early December.

“That will give us a big shot in the arm,” said Kuhns. “We’ll have steady production for three months.”

Apex Homes has weathered many difficulties, including a recession that hit the industry hard for the past five years, and Kuhns has been through it all.

The Snyder County native joined Apex as a salesman 20 years ago, two years after Robert Nipple founded the company.

Kuhns climbed up through the ranks, working as a regional sales manager and vice president of sales. He was serving as the company vice president in fall 2007 when Nipple died.

“Bob had great vision. He was very dedicated to his employees,” Kuhns said, adding that Nipple’s death was a trying time for the company just as the modular housing market slump was starting.

Apex Homes’ peak production years were between 2004 and 2006 when it had more than 300 employees.

By 2007, when the housing market slumped, there were 75. The tough economy led Haven Custom Homes in Selinsgrove to close this month, putting about 100 people out of work. The closing came 18 months after the Maryland-based company acquired the struggling Penn Lyon Homes.

Kuhns said some of those laid-off workers were interviewed by Apex, which in the first two weeks of September, added 15 employees.

Today, 105 employees work at the plant and Kuhns credits their hard work and dedication, as well as a willingness to diversify, with keeping Apex in business.

“Our success comes back to our people. They stuck by even when they had opportunities to go other places,” he said.

They stayed on despite the company’s decision to shorten the work week to between 20 and 40 hours this summer, Kuhns said.

Because of the extra work from the two new contracts, employees are now working up to 50 hours a week.

“Right now I feel confident with the business that we can maintain that flow,” Kuhns said.

“Consumer confidence” is a primary factor in whether the industry rebounds, and Kuhns said the company is doing what it can to meet the needs of prospective clients.

That means offering a variety of products, including all price-range residential homes and commercial buildings.

Last year, Apex produced seven high-end single-family homes that were between 4,600 square-feet and 6,600 square-feet, as well as affordable homes, a bank, doctor’s office and day care facility.

“Diversity is key,” Kuhns said.

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