Entrepreneurs revive once-shuttered aftermarket wheel rim plant

Apr 5, 2011

The Terre Haute (Ind.) Innovation Alliance is backing Specialty Rim Supply/Specialty Blanks with $80,000 in Small Business Administration funding to provide commercialization services to the reborn firm, which produces aftermarket automotive wheels and rims.

Purchased in October 2009 by Richard Cuvelier and Kevin Bishop in the wake of a bankruptcy filing by Aleris Corp., the local Indiana business employs 20 people, each with an average of 15 years of experience with the companies.

“Richard and Kevin have done a superb job of breathing new life into a shuttered inner-city manufacturing facility,” said Steve Witt, president of Terre Haute Economic Development Corp. “Terre Haute Innovation Alliance assistance will help accelerate their plans for launching a revolutionary new product, thus positioning the company for even greater success in the future.”

The alliance, an economic development and education partnership, provides services to new or expanding businesses that engage students in hands-on projects and create jobs for the local economy.

Specialty Rim “has exciting plans for a groundbreaking new product for the aftermarket wheel industry,” said Cuvelier, managing owner of the combined companies. “I was very encouraged when Steve arranged a meeting with the decision makers for the Innovation Alliance grant. It seemed clear that they immediately could see the merit in this new product idea. In addition and equally important is how this new product would significantly drive sales for the existing rim products that we currently produce.”

Cuvelier was with the rim-making companies under their original ownership from 1989-2000 and is the managing owner in Terre Haute. Bishop is a certified public accountant in Carlsbad, Calif.

“These two firms are back under entrepreneurial direction after two consecutive, large corporate owners had lost touch with the markets they dominated,” said Chris Pfaff, director of the Business Engagement Center at Indiana State. “We are pleased to help Specialty Rim Supply/Specialty Blanks raise awareness of their new product while at the same time provide valuable real-world experience for students at Indiana State and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.”

If all goes as planned, the launch of the new product should mean a significant number of new jobs for Terre Haute, Cuvelier said.

The Terre Haute Innovation Alliance is a partnership between the city of Terre Haute, Indiana State University, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and the Terre Haute Economic Development Corp. The alliance provides university commercialization services for companies that are developing, or expanding, their products while engaging students and faculty in hands-on projects that create jobs for the local economy.