MICHIGAN CITY — July 18, 2018, was declared “Dekker Vacuum Technologies Inc. Day” in Michigan City by Mayor Ron Meer.
His proclamation stated the business “has reached a momentous milestone this July, celebrating 20 years of delivering vacuum solutions and high-quality vacuum pumps and systems to a wide array of industries around the world. The company has grown from humble beginnings through tremendous dedication of founders Rick Dekker and his father, Jan Dekker to what it is today.”
The origin of Dekker Vacuum Technologies, 935 S. Woodland Ave., dates back to the ‘60s and ‘70s when Jan Dekker, originally from Holland, was designing and building oil-sealed liquid ring vacuum systems for South Africa’s gold mining industry. In 1979, he and his family, including his 10-year-old son, Rick, moved to the United States where Jan opened a vacuum division for a local multi-national manufacturing company.
Jan resigned his position in 1983. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in Inter-Disciplinary Engineering from Purdue University and working for a short time for Panasonic, Rick joined his father at Travaini Pumps USA. The two then went on to establish Dekker Vacuum Technologies in 1998. After 12 months of operation, their business reached profitability.
Rick explained that 85 percent of manufacturing operations use vacuums in one form or another. This includes such everyday applications as the manufacture of paper products, furniture, glass bottles, PVC pipes, door seals on automobiles, and food packaging.
“Over the years, the company has grown into one of the foremost vacuum pump and system suppliers in the country, offering our exclusive Vmax systems, and the design and manufacture of systems for many other unique applications,” Jan said. “The fact that we have an excellent fabrication facility allows us to tackle any design and gives us the capability to handle almost any job in-house — a major advantage over our competitors.”
Dekker Vacuum Technologies began with 20,000 square feet in the former Joy Manufacturing facility and has quadrupled its size to 81,000 square feet.
“We were lucky because Joy had a lot of overhead cranes and other equipment we could use. It was a tremendous advantage,” noted Jan.
At 81 years old, Jan still comes in to the office as a vacuum consultant. Rick has been CEO since 2004, and Charlie Mitchell, who joined the team in 2010, is president.
Rick said he wanted to emphasize the “importance of the role that Charlie Mitchell has played in helping us grow the company. Charlie has helped a great deal with management and focus.”
“I am pleased to say that we have accumulated a great team of capable people, under the leadership of Rick and Charles, to allow the company to further grow and strengthen our position in the market place. I am very proud to be a part of this,” said Jan.
Dekker Vacuum Technologies has maintained its privately-held ownership throughout its history. Today, it employs more than 80 full-time employees and supplies vacuum pumps and systems to over 60 countries around the world.
“A company’s success is because of its people – it hasn’t always been an easy road, Rick acknowledged. “A lot of people say, ‘I wish I could start my own business.’ It’s a constant battle to balance your break even with sales. It does weigh on you, especially with the economy and recessions.”
“To start a company like this is to take a major risk. We started from scratch. We are very specialized. Very few companies in this country can do what we’re doing. It’s not easy,” added Jan.
Looking back over the past two decades, Rick said, “It is amazing that it is already 20 years since we started Dekker Vacuum. We could not have accomplished this without our customers and vendors having faith in Dekker Vacuum over the years and for that, we thank them. Most of all, I am proud of what our team has accomplished over that period of time. We continue to work hard to improve every aspect of Dekker, committed to world-class quality and service.”
Reflecting over his decision to return to Michigan City and go into business with his father, Rick admitted, “I grew up in Michigan City and always remember thinking that I wanted nothing but to get out of Michigan City.”
But, it wasn’t long before he realized that “it’s easy to be against something” and that “this place is a pretty good place,” he continued.
And, Rick became an advocate for this hometown.
In 2006 he and Don Babcock joined Tim Bietry to begin the Michigan City Northend Advocacy Team.
“We were bound and determined to see if we could make a difference and raise awareness of the possibilities that we have,” he said.
Giving a lot of credit to Mayor Ron Meer and former Mayor Chuck Oberlie, Rick said, “It seems like for the first time in a long time that everyone is rowing in the same direction … there’s been a lot of emphasis on the positive and moving something forward.”
Rick is also chair on the advisory board of the AK Smith Area Career Center, a board member of the Michigan City Economic Development Corporation, the finance chairman of La Lumiere School’s Board of Trustees, a board member of the Northwest Indiana Forum, and a supporter of the Lubeznik Center for the Arts and Friendship Botanic Gardens. Rick is also a member of “One Region,” a non-profit group “that strives to grow population, attract and retain talent, and increase household income in Northern Indiana (according to www.oneregionniw.org).
For more information on Dekker Vacuum Technologies, go to www.dekkervacuum.com, look up “Dekker Vacuum Technologies” on Facebook or call 219-861-0661.