Camp company coming to NilesPublished 9:11pm Monday, November 26, 2012
A growing company that caters to campgrounds wants to call Niles home.
Ultra Camp, LLC, employs seven with salaries starting at $60,000 with full benefits and who currently work out of their homes in Michigan, Illinois and Maryland.
Ultra Camp aims to build a traditional office behind the YMCA at 1030 Plym Park for $900,000, with a second option of refurbishing a warehouse outside of the city for $500,000.
Owner Daniel Ashley introduced himself to Niles City Council Monday night since he seeks tax abatements, pavement of the gravel municipal parking lot by the tennis courts and a $60,000 loan from the city revolving fund for equipment for the project to “make sense.”
Pending council approval, the project could break ground in a few weeks.
Bank financing and a builder are already lined up, and Ultra Camp acquired the northern six of nine lots it desires for a 6,000-square-foot facility with an attached racquetball court.
“We’re interested in having you here,” Mayor Michael McCauslin said.
Eventually, Ultra Camp envisions a high-tech center with suites to lease.
There is a rundown house in the vicinity for which the city issued a correction order.
“This whole project started about 30 years ago when I was 6 and went to summer camp for the first time,” Ashley said. “I had a tremendous experience, continued on and starting working at camps at 16 (in Ohio) for the next 10 years in different facets. I learned two things. I don’t believe there is a more effective tool for shaping our young people for service and responsibility. I also learned we needed better tools to run camp. It was my responsibility to manage 50 staff members, 200 kids and 400 parents.”
Ashley combined his camp background with a media technology degree from Andrews University to create his web-based camp management product. That was 12 years ago.
“We serve about 250 camps across the U.S.,” Ashley said. “This past year, we ran about 200,000 reservations through our system. Three of our seven employees were added in the last 18 months.”
He anticipates hiring another “every year for the foreseeable future. While growth is good for business, it’s no longer efficient to manage all these people in their remote locations.”
Those seven employees have 14 children younger than age 10.
“Our employees are highly-skilled IT professionals,” he said. “They’re in high demand, so difficult to find. They look at, ‘What is my work environment going to be like?’ so we had to be conscious of that.”
The house along the walking path “is not worth fixing,” Ashley said. “It needs to be torn down. Phase two would turn this parcel into a high-tech center and bring them to the campus we’d develop. We’ve talked to Juan (Ganum, community development director) about being able to provide free wi-fi to that end of Plym Park. There’s a playground there.”
Ganum said paving the lot would cost $45,000 for 42 spaces. Ashley said the $60,000 loan could be looked at as $15,000 per employee Ultra Camp anticipates adding — two relocating and two new hires.
“Full or partial” tax abatements could cost Niles up to $20,000, “which is significant for a small company,” Ashley said. “When this abatement runs out, there’s going to be a building worth almost a million dollars to tax. It’s going to remove an eyesore that is not safe.”
Another plus Ashley cited is that software training is now done over the phone.
Ultra Camp wants to bring clients to Niles for personal training.
“We’re adding 30 camps a year,” he said. “We anticipate 200 visitors here for two or three days, which also benefits local businesses because they need places to stay and eat.”