Last updated: July 24. 2013 2:14PM - 250 Views

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Ryan Scott Ottney

PDT Staff Writer

Representatives from Infra-Metals signed papers with the Southern Ohio Port Authority on Friday to officially transfer land in New Boston over to the company to build a new $13 million steel fabrication and distribution plant. The signing was the end result of five years of planning and development.

Infra-Metals Project Manager Michael Dean said Infra-Metals is owned by the publicly-traded Reliance Steel, which is the largest distributor of metals in the United States and all of North America, and the second largest distribution company in the world.

“Several thousand tons go through our buildings each year,” Dean said. “People think when they have to get a two-by-four they have to go out to Mennard’s. Well, when people have to buy a lot of beams they come to us. That’s who we are. We’re the steel version of that.”

Along with steel supply, the company also does first-step fabrication to prepare the steel for job sites.

“We serve the industrial market, the commercial market, we also sell a fair amount of steel into the transportation industry, coal mining and conveyance. We’re very excited about the fracking and natural gas and some of the alternative energies that are starting to come into the Ohio Valley in a very prominent way.”

With facilities primarily located along the east coast, Dean said the company is now moving more into the midwest. One of the things that attracted the company to southern Ohio is its placement along the Ohio River and the access it allows for barge transports.

“We knew we wanted to be on the Ohio River. We knew this section of the country was a section none of the plants was servicing well. We were either too far away or it was too expensive to truck steel here to the end user,” Dean said.

The deal was almost lost entirely after a bad first impression initially knocked New Boston out of the running for Infra-Metals. Dean said it was former SOPA chairman Bob Walton, Sr., and local developer Don Hadsell who convinced the company to give them another look. To further entice the company, they were granted property tax abatements by the state of Ohio and the village of New Boston.

“You look at it from the state of Ohio standpoint; you look at it from the county standpoint; you look at it from the tax abatements and the assistance that has been afforded us in this project; what it came down to was a couple of guys on a local level that recognized an opportunity and seized that opportunity,” Dean said.

The company also received help from American Electric Power (AEP), who donated $100,000 to the help relocate a major transition line.

“We were able to work with the Southern Ohio Port Authority to put together what we call a restablization plan grant,” said AEP manager of economic and business development Timothy Wells. “We were able not only to secure the grant for the project and for the port authority, but also work with existing customers that are served off of that line to schedule some outages that were necessary to do. We appreciate the cooperation of those other businesses in the area to help us help the port authority to town.”

Timothy Wells is also the son of SOPA board member and Scioto County Economic Development Director Steve Wells.

“There have been a huge amount of people involved — Walton and Hadsell and the commissioners — and there have been environmental people on both the state level and the private level that have done a fantastic job. That was an extremely challenging site. I think we’re extremely fortunate to have a company with the credentials of Infra-Metals, and we are very, very excited about them coming and being a good corporate citizen. But the old cliche that it has taken a whole community to bring this together is not unfounded,” Steve Wells said.

Dean said Infra-Metals now is in final negotiations with a general contractor and expects to sign a deal within two weeks. After that he said the company expects to start construction shortly after the first of the year and — factoring for winter weather delays — could be fully operational by August or September.

The company already has plans to increase its local production over what it had originally planned.

“We originally looked at a certain set of equipment for this facility as a start-up set and as time progressed and we’ve done more marketing in this area, couple that with the fact that we’ve received things like tax abatements and some cost-associative things like offers and grants from local communities, we realized we had a little bit more money to spend and that’s going to bode well for us,” Dean said. “We are now looking at increasing the amount of start-up equipment, which will mean additional processes, additional offering to customers. More than likely, and most probably, additional jobs available.”

Initially the company will hire 25 employees, who will be trained at Infra-Metals facilities in Chicago or Virginia. Within five years, or possibly less, the company plans to expand to more than 65 employees. In addition to being SOPA board chairman, Bill Thacker is also the executive director of Community Action Organization (CAO) of Scioto County and said CAO will assist Infra-Metals with workforce training and assistance programs.

“These are jobs that are well-paid with a full benefits package,” Thacker said.

A driving force in the project from the beginning, Walton passed away in April. Once complete, Infra-Metals in New Boston will be located in the Bob Walton, Sr., Industrial Parkway where it will forever remember the man who helped make it happen.

Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or rottney@heartlandpublications.com.

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