• Owner Chris Le Heron sells the company to David Martin of Montezuma and two Chicago-area businessmen
By J.O. PARKER
Sig Manufacturing Co., Inc. turns 60 this year, and now has n
ew owners who plan to keep the model airplane company flying in Montezuma.
The company recently announced that Chris Le Heron of Wellington, New Zealand has sold the business to three investors, including David Martin, vice president and general manager at Sig Mfg., and Chicago-area business-men Herb Rizzo and Ron Petterec, both avid modelers. The deal was finalized in Montezuma on Friday, Feb. 18.
“All other options would have taken it out of Montezuma,” said Martin, who will continue to oversee the daily operations of the company under the new ownership.
Martin said there were companies from outside Iowa expressing interest in purchasing the business, and that he his wife, Andrea and owner Le Heron felt it was important to keep the company in Montezuma.
“We are happy living in Montezuma and have a son, Norman, who is a sophomore at Montezuma High School, and a daughter, Charlotte, who graduated in 2006,” said Martin. “We made a commitment to get involved in the purchase to keep it here in Montezuma.”
Rizzo and Petterec bring to the company strong business backgrounds in fields other than the hobby industry. Both are avid modelers and have been attending the annual Sig Mfg. RC (radio control) Fly In held around Father’s Day for a long, long time, noted Martin.
Rizzo owns a heating air conditioning and plumbing business and Petterec sold and retired from a successful metal fabrication company.
Martin said Le Heron, who has owned the company since 1999, sold the company due to health reasons.
“Chris (Le Heron) was happy to keep it in Montezuma and hence that is how the deal happened,” said Martin.
That’s good news for the 30 employees who work for the company, some with more than 40 years of service.
“I’m really pleased”, said company founder Hazel Sig-Hester of Montezuma. “I’m happy it’s going to stay and that the people are going to have a job.”
Sig-Hester and the late Glen Sigafoose founded the company in the basement of their Montezuma home in 1951 when they started cutting, packaging and selling balsa wood for modelers in the Midwest. The company quickly grew and by 1955 the couple’s business moved to a larger location at 401 S. Front St., where it continued to grow and expand. Today, the company encompasses nearly 80,000 square-foot and produces and sells more than 100 different balsa wood model airplane kits, both radio control and control line, and thousands of products and accessories from decals to glues, paints, engines and instruction manuals.
“The most popular has been the Kadet series of training models that have been used to train model airplane pilots (around the world),” said Martin.
The company also specializes in the Almost Ready to Fly (ARF) models that are designed in Montezuma and produced in China. ARF models are pre manufactured and the modeler has to do little from box to air.
Martin said it was Le Heron who increased SIG’s selection of ARFs, “Which was a big boost for Sig at the time.”
During his tenure, Martin said Le Heron also upgraded the company’s computer system and developed a Web site that is used by hobby shops in all 50 states and model enthusiasts the world over.
Martin said Rizzo had expressed interest in the company in recent years and that both he and Petterec are very excited about the future.
“They are both active modelers and so they understand the business,” said 1Sig-Hester.
Rizzo will serve as president while Martin and Petterec will serve as vice presidents of the company.
Martin has been with Sig Mfg. since 2004 and hails from the Nashville, Tenn., area where his family owned business Hobby Lobby International (not the chain store) is located. Martin said he first met Hazel when he was around 12 years old at the Toledo, Ohio RC show that she attended every year. Martin’s wife, Andrea, hails from Nuremberg, Germany where her family owned a hobby
manufacturing business named KAVAN.
Sig purchased KAVAN in 2003 and it was through that purchase that brought the Martins to Montezuma. Le Heron Corporation now owns KAVAN and Andrea remains as president of the company.
Martin said that Andrea’s parents had visited Montezuma years ago, and Sig-Hester took them on a very memorable airplane flight.
Sig was recently featured during an episode of “How It’s Made” which aired on the Discovery Science Channel Feb. 4.
“Congratulations to the new owners of Sig,” said Jacque Johnston, the now retired past president of the company who spent 40 ½ years in the business. “The recent sell of Sig is a very positive move forward for the employees and community. I expect good things to happen now and in the future.”