New investment and expansion, along with new jobs, are rare terms heard in Southwest Virginia these days, but Russell County is using them.
Steel Fab, which currently has two facilities in Washington County, Virginia, will move them to Russell County, saving 240 jobs and adding 50 more.
There's a new sign out in front of the old Lear manufacturing plant in the Russell County Industrial park; it reads "sold."
It's an announcement 10 months in the making as the county revealed that Steel Fab will be relocating from Washington County and combining two facilities into the massive plant. "This gives us an opportunity to bring both of those plants under one location. There's going to be a lot more efficiency. We're going to be able to bring in some new equipment and actually expand our business from there," says Barry Berquist, president of the pressure vessel group.
With the expansion comes more jobs for the largest family-owned metals processor and distributor in North America. "It is a grand opportunity to put folks to work who may have lost work recently due to the downturn in coal. Plus it's keeping our folks here," Lebanon mayor Tony Dodi said.
Company officials told us one reason for the expansion is the growth in another form of energy that uses their steel pressure vessels plus their other interests. "We also have a lot of oil and gas costumers that are in Ohio and Pennsylvania. We're the most logical location to build those pressure vessels," general manager Bill Kahl says.
But most of all, the announcement is a morale booster for the county that has waited a long time to fill up the facility with activity. "I hope everybody leaves today with an uplifted spirit. I hope the morale of the people goes up to where they hold their head up high and say, 'Russell County is back open for business,'" IDA chairman Harry Rutherfod said.
This was a $1.5 million investment to establish the pressure tank production operation in the industrial park.