By Frank Lewis
Company officials said part of Fluor-B&W Portsmouth LLC mission is a commitment to improving the economy of southern Ohio by reinvesting in emerging businesses in the communities surrounding the Cold War era plant. Fluor announced this week that it has awarded a $30,000 grant to Dill’s Fire and Safety in Jackson County. The grant will partially fund the purchase of new truck lifts that allow heavy emergency response equipment to be serviced at their expanded facility in Wellston. Dill’s recently purchased four heavy-duty lifts to increase their on-site service and repair capabilities while adding four new full-time jobs and possibly more in the future.
Fluor-B&W is the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) contractor for the decontamination and decommissioning of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon.
Through a partnership with the Joint Economic Development Initiative of Southern Ohio (JEDISO), Fluor-B&W identifies grant candidates in Pike, Ross, Scioto and Jackson counties looking to grow their business and add quality jobs to the region. Each year Fluor-B&W invests more than $500,000 locally while their employees give an additional $150,000 to community support organizations like the United Way.
Jackson County natives Tony and Susan Johnson purchased Dill’s in 2012 after 20 years of helping build the business. Opened in 1965. Dill’s Fire and Safety Equipment is headquartered in Ravenswood, W.Va. and provides firefighting equipment and emergency apparatus to municipal fire departments. The Johnsons opened the Jackson County location at 20213 Ohio 93 in Wellston two years ago with two employees. With the business start-up phase behind them they now see an opportunity for growth.
“Our goal for this company is to grow it to the size of the West Virginia office, which employs 12 sales associates and technicians,” Tony Johnson said. “Purchasing this equipment is a good first step toward our goals – a step that wouldn’t be possible without the help of the Fluor-B&W Opportunity Fund. It will allow us to not only maintain our current employment, but also grow to that next level here in Ohio.”
While Dill’s Fire and Safety Equipment Company is well known for their ability to service and repair fire apparatus and accessories, Tony Johnson recognized that there were no other businesses that specialized in fire apparatus repair and fabrication in a 90 mile radius, and made the decision to expand his business and offer those services.
Southern Ohio Port Authority Executive Director and volunteer firefighter Jason Kester said he agrees that the equipment will be a tremendous benefit.
“The lifts give all of the area fire and emergency services a capability that we have not had locally,” Kester said. “If a truck is wrecked or malfunctioning we’ve had to send it to West Virginia, Columbus or Cincinnati and lose the capability of the truck for extended periods of time. With the new capability in Jackson we’ll cut service times to a couple of days, thus having the trucks back in service in our communities and protecting the citizens much quicker.”
Jennifer Jacobs, Executive Director of the Jackson County Economic Development Board, also commented on the grant.
“Granting $30,000 to this small business entrepreneur to purchase new equipment, offer much needed services and create local jobs is a perfect use of the Fluor B&W Opportunity Fund to grow small businesses in our region, “ Jacobs said.
“I continue to be impressed by the energy and vision I see from local entrepreneurs,” Fluor-B&W Deputy Project Director Bob Nichols said. “The Johnsons are another example of hard-working, respected business people who have a good plan but just need a little capital to make it happen.”
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 1928, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.