By Sue Moore
Mike and Dan Oswalt are second cousins, who have purchased two run-down buildings and land sitting side by side on West Prairie Street in Vicksburg, to house their businesses that are totally different from one another. They are planning an Open House on Wednesday, Nov. 5 from 4 to 7 p.m. so the public can tour the facilities.
Dan Oswalt is a master electrician with his own business in which his wife Kelly is the owner and Mike Oswalt is a toxicologist who settled back in Vicksburg when he and his wife Julie decided to purchase his parents business called Ozland Enterprises. Both families have exhibited an entrepreneurial streak in going out on their own to create these small business enterprises. In fact, the two cousins roomed together as freshmen at Michigan State University after graduation from Vicksburg High School in 1983.
They hail from a family that located in Brady Township as farmers in the 1880s but these two are not bringing the farm into the village in their new location they assure the public. In fact Mike took a first look at the two buildings at 591 and 603 W. Prairie and said to himself, he needed to check with someone who knew something to come look at the prospects, so he called his cousin Dan. Together they could see the potential of the space while attempting to look beyond the condition it was in.
It was chopped up the way they needed it to be for their individual businesses, left a lot of room for growth, while renting out the unused space to other businesses, be they complimentary or not. Dan and Kelly had a home based electrical contracting business that is 15 years old and needed to move out into larger quarters. Mike had been housed in a small space at 415 W. Prairie that was cramped and did not provide storage for the mountains of Velcro that his business refines into custom straps for agriculture management tools.
You probably couldn’t find two more diverse businesses that could see a need to be together. That’s why the two buildings could benefit both of them, they deduced. Ken Schippers, Vicksburg village manager, tipped the scales when he paid a visit to Mike, shortly after becoming acting manager, and said the village was willing to make a deal, since they owned the two properties and they were fast deteriorating.
The goal for both families was to stay in the village where they could have quality family time with their five daughters, and still get to work easily. Mike tells what a typical morning was like before the move, since his storage area for materials shipments was in his parents’ big red barn on East W Avenue, just outside the village limits. In the winter, he would start the day taking Alex and Abbey to school, get out the diesel tractor (that didn’t always start), plow a big path to the barn for semi-trucks to access and then wait for their arrival, while perhaps warming himself in his parents’ kitchen. Now he can open the overhead door of his new digs and they drive right in to unload.
What Dan and Kelly do in their business is provide residential, commercial, and industrial services. He has had many successful bids on school and commercial projects in the Vicksburg area, recently completing all the electrical work on the pavilion project in the Historic Village. They have been known to call on their daughters Megan, Emily and Katie to provide clean-up work, once an electrical project is finished, Kelly says.
It’s a bit more difficult to explain what Ozland Enterprises produces, since they don’t do any retail sales, but actually take orders from all over the U.S. and internationally. The first product, a dairy herd monitor was developed by Bill Oswalt in 1972 and marketed to dairymen to keep track of each cow, showing when it was born, when it was ready to breed, pregnancy checks, and pre and post calving treatments.
This expanded to leg bands of all different colors, made out of Velcro to identify treated cows. A safety hobble was invented out of Velcro to keep a cow from slipping and splitting out in all kinds of conditions. Now Mike’s business designs Velcro bands for all kinds of human needs as well. “My most fun part of this business is engineering new types of Velcro straps to meet someone’s needs,” he says, which is a far cry from when he worked in a lab at Warner Lambert in Ann Arbor upon earning his masters’ degree from MSU.
Dan’s parents, Bonnie and Gordon still farm in Brady Township, while Dan and his wife Kelly Swope Oswalt ventured out on their own to form Oswalt Electric in 2000. Mike is the son of Pat and Bill Oswalt, founders of the business that he and Julie purchased in 1999 from his parents. They sold their entire dairy herd in 1985 to leave farming for good.
Construction Plaudits from the Owners
Both Oswalt businesses employed local contractors, as they deeply believe in keeping their work local. Many of the building contractors were high school friends and trusted entities from past experience. They would like to thank the following companies:
BKB Construction – Doug Blaine; Preferred Plumbing – Steve Leach; JD Painting – Jeff Mohney; Rice Gutters – Brain Laker; Vicksburg Do It Best Hardware – Steve Schimp; The Heritage Company – Roger Parzyck; and Metal Tech – Steve Dougherty.
The rental space available these contractors helped to create is 4400 sq. feet with an open floor plan that is ready to customize. Ample parking, fork lift accessible, heated, with 600 AMP / 3 phase power.
James Schippers Builder; Mike Becker Builders; Paul Goldberg Plumbing; L&T Seamless Gutters – Tony Skrzypek; Orbitz Systems – Ben Ryan; Wonders Service – Greg Wonders; Oswalt Electric; Kalamazoo County State Bank; Big C Lumber Co.; Vicksburg Do It Best Hardware – Steve Schimp; and Grossman & Moldovan, PLLC.
The rental spaces that these contractors helped to create in the Ozland building include two offices with a third area that is unfinished and a production area of about 800 sq. feet.