Thu., 1:06pm: Idled RG Steel paint line has new owner
BEECH BOTTOM – A paint line idled with the bankruptcy of RG Steel is being restarted under its new owner, Jupiter Aluminum.
Jupiter, headquartered in Illinois with plants in Indiana, purchased the paint line, once a part of RG Steel’s Wheeling Corrugating division, several months ago at auction. They’d originally intended to relocate the line, but realized very early on that it made more sense to keep it in Beech Bottom.
Jupiter buys aluminum scrap from manufacturers, scrapyards and customers that it melts to make coils for a variety of end uses, many of them in the building product market.
The company has signed a 10-year lease for warehouse space at the old corrugating property, now owned by Hackman Capital and the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle. The deal gives Jupiter about 110,000 square feet of operating space, including the old administration building.
In addition to the paint line, Jupiter also purchased a slitter line, giving them the capability of cutting coils to different widths, which will be installed at the Beech Bottom site sometime in the next two weeks. Packaging equipment also will be added.
“We’d always looked for ways to extend our business into different product lines or widths,” said Jupiter President Paul-Henri Chevalier, adding that the new mill expands his company’s product capabilities. “We heard this place was for sale – we looked at it and it was exactly what we were looking for. The line is great, but what’s harder to find is a qualified work force. The plant had operated in Beech Bottom until about a year ago, and it had very, very qualified personnel.”
Chevalier said some of those workers have now signed on with Jupiter and are currently revamping the equipment in preparation for a restart.
“The first step for us was to refurbish the line, make sure everything will work fine and replace components (in need of repair),” he said. “We have people here who used to operate the line helping us, they know the equipment and how it works. They’re thrilled to be here, to be painting it and putting grease back in the bearings and making it work.”
He said they hope to be in production by mid- to late-July and will be adding staff as production ramps up. He said that will happen “as the housing market rebounds, it’s not going to happen overnight.”
Ron Nuckles, general manager of Jupiter’s coil coating division, said they’ve got six employees refurbishing the line now and will be adding more as operations ramp up.
“It makes sense to leave the line here and bring in trained employees,” he added. “If we took the line out…it would be well over a year before we could get into production. Here, we can be in production” in six weeks or less.
BDC Executive Director Pat Ford, meanwhile, said Hackman Capital is picking up the tab to bring potable water to the plant and take sewage from the buildings and plants to a treatment facility. Hackman also is renovating the upper floor of the administration building, which Jupiter is renting.
“(They’re) investing about a quarter-million dollars” in the upgrades, Ford said. That, plus the jobs Jupiter is creating, bodes well for the local economy, he said.
“They’re almost all local hires, and (a lot) will be from Wheeling Corrugating,” he said. “So, not only are they bringing people back into the work force, but they’ve precipitated well over a million dollars in building improvements and a quarter-million dollars in site improvements. It’s going to have a huge impact, not only on the work force but also on the tax base and property values in Beech Bottom.”
Chevalier, meanwhile, said manufacturing is the backbone of any country’s economy.
“We saw this place, we saw what could be done with it,” he said. “We saw a lot of potential. There’s no reason why we can’t revive the place. We’re excited, very excited. It’s always hard to see a company shutting down, and it’s always a pleasure to be part of its revival. We can never get back to the size of the company years ago, but we can revive a part of it.”
Chevalier, who was in Beech Bottom Wednesday, said the last time he’d seen the property “it didn’t look good, but today it looks great and we’re not done yet.”
“People are here cleaning, painting, greasing and replacing parts,” he said. “They want this line to be back and running; we want that, too.”