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. The firm originally intended to relocate the line, but officials 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 it 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," 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 the company hopes 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 six employees are refurbishing the line now.
"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.