By TIM COOK
RANSON, W.Va. –A Denmark company has selected an old apple orchard in the city of Ranson as its home for a new 463,000-square-foot manufacturing plant that will produce high-performance industrial insulation and bring about 150 new jobs to the city and Jefferson County.
Roxul Inc. plans to construct the $150 million plant on about 130 acres in the old Jefferson Orchards site along Route 9 in Ranson, city and county officials announced. The coming plant will produce fire-resistant “stone wool” insulation for buildings, including customized products such as acoustic ceilings, according to the company and local officials.
“I really am truly awful proud of what we have done,” said Ranson Mayor Keith “Duke” Pierson, referring to the collective state, county and city efforts to draw the company’s new operations to Jefferson County. “This is going to be some pretty-good paid jobs.”
Construction on the plant is set to begin in October, and the facility is expected to be completed by early 2020.
Roxul officials were looking to build a second facility on the East Coast, and its final two options were the Ranson site and another site in Jefferson County, officials said.
“It basically came down to two sites, and both of them were in Jefferson County,”Pierson said.
Pierson said Roxul officials were attracted to final city site in large measure for its access to major highways, water and sewer lines, and future abundant gas and electricity resources. With more than 400 acres, the site also offers considerable room for the company to grow its operations in the future.
The land for the site is zoned with an agriculture use but will be rezoned to a commercial use as part of an agreement struck with Roxul, officials said.
Ranson and Jefferson County officials worked with the West Virginia Development Office and the Jefferson County Development Authority to help bring the plant to a city with a deep industrial past.
The Ranson plant will be the company’s second in the United States. The company’s first U.S. plant is in Byhalia, Miss., a facility city and county officials visited while quietly negotiating with Roxul to build its plant in the city and Jefferson County. Pierson said employees worked with tablets and other technology throughout the Mississippi plant.
The old orchard property is owned by the Rolstans, a longstanding Jefferson County family, Pierson said. One family member, Mark Rolstan, a lawyer in Florida, was closely involved in the industrial development project’s negotiations.
Jefferson County Commission President Peter Onoszko was among the officials who praised the effective teamwork among the jurisdictions involved that brought a major economic development win to the city and the county.
“The decision on the part of Roxul to locate a major production operation here will benefit the county in many ways above and beyond the obvious economic benefit,” Onoszko said.
Onoszko pointed to 200 new jobs coming to Jefferson County over the past three months from announcements of companies with international operations moving or starting facilities here. “Jefferson County is gaining an international reputation,” he said.
“We’re moving in the right direction.”
Negotiations with Roxul began seven months ago, and the project was code named “Operation Shuttle” to maintain confidentially. The city, the county and the state officials involved also signed nondisclosure agreements.
“All the players involved did a very good job of keeping it under wraps,” pointed out John Reisenweber, executive director of Jefferson County Economic Development Authority. “It really was a great example of cooperation and a commitment to team West Virginia.”
Several frontline officials involved in the effort put in untold hours of work to notch the development win, Pierson said. “There was a lot of give and take.”
Roxul’s products are produced from a combination of natural basalt rock and recycled slag. Those materials, combined with technology, produce a mineral wool insulation product that is both effective and environmentally friendly, according to the company.
Part of the Rockwool Group, the company part of Rockwool International, the world’s largest producer of mineral wool insulation with over 23 facilities in 14 countries.
“Roxul’s expansion to West Virginia is a testimony to the state’s global competitiveness and presents a great opportunity for West Virginia’s high-quality workforce,” offered West Virginia Secretary of Commerce H. Wood Thrasher in a prepared statement.
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