By LINDA HARRIS
The State Journal
WEIRTON, W.Va. — Turning an old machine shop in Weirton that had been empty for more than a decade ago into a manufacturing center wasn’t easy. Or cheap, according to Bidell Gas Compression’s Dan Martin.
Martin said they’ve spent more than $2 million getting the building back in working order. But, with the renovations done, he said they’re positioned now to reap the benefits of having a plant located in the heart of the tri-state’s Marcellus and Utica Shale reserves.
“Everyone’s excited that we’re here,” he said.
It’s using the property to build gas compression equipment for customers in the tri-state area. Until now, Martin, vice president of manufacturing for Bidell, said the local business community wasn’t reaping the benefits of its strategic position. He said the Weirton plant has already landed several big orders, though he cannot divulge customer names or order details.
He said the Weirton plant currently employs about 30 people, though Martin said he figures to have 60-100 on staff six months from now. And when the company hits peak operations, he said there should be about 200 workers on staff.
“We’re just starting to slowly hire,” he said. “We’re paced by the amount of engines we can buy from Caterpillar. Until Caterpillar (expands), we’ll get about two a month, but we could easily handle five a month.”
Martin said the $2 million in renovations began in February, when the BDC gave him the keys to the building. Bidell, headquartered in Alberta, Canada, “hired locally and purchased locally, as much as we could,” Martin said.
“The renovation was monumental,” said Martin, Bidell’s vice president of manufacturing. “There were a lot of unforeseen things, we just didn’t anticipate.”
But to get there, he said they had to re-power the entire building, installing a new transformer and running new electrical lines throughout the two-story structure, then installing more than 90 LED lights. They also installed new HVAC systems.
Then there were the 60-dumpster loads of trash and debris that had to be cleared out. “It was like people just got up and left,” he said.
Even the overhead cranes and other heavy equipment that had been left behind had to be inspected, overhauled and recertified.
“I’ve only been with the company for five years, but it was our president (Sean Ulmer) who recognized the potential six or seven years ago. He actually came to the Tri-State area and said he couldn’t believe there wasn’t a compressor manufacturing shop in the middle of this area,” Martin said. “He saw it, … and the quest began. We looked at 40-plus buildings and then found this one in Weirton.”
See more from The State Journal