Guardian Bikes’ mission is to build the world’s safest kids bicycles.

The company believes a bike should be a part of every childhood, but injuries shouldn’t. By engineering a way to make kids feel safe and confident while riding, Guardian encourages them to be active and healthy by spending more time outdoors.

Equipped with SureStop, a revolutionary new braking system that allows bikes to stop not only faster but safer than ever, Guardian offers different bikes that take into consideration children’s heights and riding style.

The company started in Irvine, California, but moved to Austin, Texas, in the spring of 2020.

Logistics are handled through a third-party logistics company in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Salt Lake City, Utah.

It’s now in the process of moving to Seymour.

That news was shared during a special meeting of the Seymour Redevelopment Commission on Monday afternoon and the Seymour City Council meeting that night.

Jim Plump, executive director of Jackson County Industrial Development Corp., spoke on behalf of the company requesting a local incentive package.

The redevelopment commission approved a four-year $100,000 ECLIPSE loan to support the company’s project that will begin with logistics and expand into manufacturing and assembly in Seymour, while the city council approved a $275,000 tax abatement for Guardian’s initial investment for equipment and machinery.

Guardian is the third company to benefit from ECLIPSE, which stands for Economic Loan Incentive Program-Seymour. The others were Pet Supplies Plus in 2012 and Trellis Earth in 2014.

The JCIDC-developed program provides a cash loan to help offset startup costs based on job creation. Loan proceeds come from tax increment finance or economic development income tax funds, and the amount of the loan is tied directly to the number of new jobs (permanent full-time positions) and wages.

Existing and new industrial companies are eligible to apply, provided the applicant creates at least 25 new jobs. An applicant is eligible to apply for a loan based on the number of employees who live in Jackson County.

The program is designed as a forgivable loan. Each year, the company would submit a compliance form to the redevelopment commission and city council to show jobs created, wages and residency of employees.

Based on compliance, the city boards would approve loan forgiveness for that year. If not in compliance, the company could be required to make that year’s loan payment. The interest rate would be determined per project as part of the terms.

Plump said the signed documentation will be presented to the redevelopment commission at its next meeting at 4 p.m. April 23. If approved, the company can move forward with its plans.

Indiana Economic Development Corp. also has offered up to $1.1 million in EDGE, or Economic Development for a Growing Economy, tax credits to Guardian.

Plump said the company’s project is expected to total nearly $7 million in investment and employ 100 associates by 2026.

Guardian is expected to begin operations at an existing building at 2230 D Ave. East in the Freeman Field Industrial Park that formerly housed Pretium Packaging.

Plump, however, said discussions are continuing on other possible locations in Seymour. The building is about 20,000 square feet, but Guardian wants 40,000 to 60,000 just for the fulfillment side of the business, said Sam Markel, vice president of manufacturing and operations for Guardian.

He and Chris Morel, senior manufacturing engineer, attended Monday’s meetings.

So why the move to Seymour?

“For us, it was for the direct to consumer being kind of in the crossroads of America here,” Markel said. “It’s a very advantageous area. For shipping costs for us and logistics costs, it’s a really good fit.”

As a bonus, it allows Markel, a Brownstown native, to live and work closer to his hometown. He has worked for the company as an adviser and now full time for about eight months, while Morel is in his third month. They worked together at a previous company.

Currently, Guardian’s bicycles are manufactured in China and then shipped to the United States for inspection before they are sold, Plump said. The company, though, has been studying the possibility of moving its entire operation to the United States.

“Obviously, with shipping costs, it’s not very advantageous, so we’re having them brought over now in components,” Markel said. “We will assemble the bikes here in the United States and then ship them out direct to consumer.”

At the Seymour location, Markel said they will start doing fulfillment, assembling bikes by about the middle of June. The products include balance, single-speed and geared bikes.

“Then we will start looking at trying to revive some of the supply chain in the North America setting for maybe spokes, some hubs, different things that we think we can do here,” he said.

Guardian also is in the design phase of adult bicycles, Markel said, and they hope to have those by the first part of 2023.

“And then looking to build into other areas, as well,” he said. “We have about 19 IPs (intellectual property) for our technology, so we have patents all across the world. We’re definitely a differentiator in the bike market as far as a braking system, but we also have a lot of other intellectual property that we’re looking to bring into the industry as we grow.”

Guardian Bikes launched at the Interbike trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada, in September 2015.

Brian Riley is the chief executive officer of Guardian, and Kyle Jansen is the co-founder. In 2017, the friends appeared on the television show “Shark Tank” and received $500,000 from Mark Cuban for a 15% share in the company.
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