NEODESHA, Kan. — While the economic slump is taking its toll in some parts of the county, one local firm is moving ahead with its plan to add more manufacturing space to its local operations. This move could add more employment to the area in the near future.
Ted Pietz, president of Neodesha Plastics Inc., watches as the machinery turntable rotates and cools a vacuum-formed piece of material before being removed and stacked. There are only three machines of this type in the world and Neodesha Plastics has two of the in the current facility. Don Wilkinson/JBJ
"It's an expansion. We are building an additional 100,000 square feet in Neodesha on uncontaminated soil, which is why it is not connected to our current facility," said Ted Peitz, president of Neodesha Plastics Inc.
Funding for the new $3 million expansion comes from a 10-year industrial revenue bond through the Community National Bank. Peitz indicated that the company moved forward with plans to build on uncontaminated land not far from their existing facility. They pushed forward, because they could not wait for the litigation to close on a suit filed by the City of Neodesha against British Petroleum.
"We had hoped the lawsuit decision would have moved faster, that the original NPI facility could be cleaned up and we could add on. But we can't wait any longer, and have to move forward." Part of the existing plant sits on the old refinery floor, but until the liability on environmental remediation is resolved, the company could not move forward with any expansion.
From 1897 to 1970 a petroleum refinery operated in the west part of the city by then Standard Oil Company (now British Petroleum). Those refining processes included crude distillation, catalytic cracking, platinum reforming, and steam generation.
The City of Neodesha filed a $1 billion lawsuit March 29, 2004, in Wilson County District Court seeking relief for environmental damages and related health problems. The lawsuit alleges that the refinery had poisoned the groundwater and soil and that its managers covered up the pollution to avoid liability. The city's lawsuit focuses on cleanup efforts at the site, which it says are inadequate, and the harm the pollution has done to property values and city revenues.
That lawsuit is in the Kansas Supreme Court waiting to be heard for damages.
Established in 1969, Neodesha Plastics Inc. is a supplier to original equipment manufacturers often called OEMs. "The parts we manufacture here go to people that assemble their own brand-name products, such as Ditch Witch in Perry, Okla. Stillwater Design, and companies like that," Peitz told the Journal in an Aug. 6, 2007, interview. (see Vol. 2, No. 32, page 17.)
Neodesah Plastics is expanding their operations with construction of a 100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in the West Grandy Industrial Park. Don Wilkinson/JBJ
NPI employs about 200 people in a 105,000-square-foot production facility in Neodesha with another 50,000 square feet of leased space at the former ADM dog food plant in Fredonia. The addition of the 100,000 square feet at the new building will allow NPI to vacate the leased space and bring the operations back to local control.
"The leased space was a temporary bridge to get us to the new place," Pietz said. "We will bring about 50 people back from Fredonia. I can't tell you with the current economic structure that at this point that we will be adding new people, but we are planning within the next three years that we will be adding people as new things come on line for us."
Depending on weather, the new facility, being built by R&S Construction of Neodesha, should be ready for occupancy by May 2009. NPI is serving as their own architect and designer in this case since they are most familiar with the needs for the building. "We feel we know about as much about what we need as anybody does. It's going to be nice with two-story offices and will be quite an improvement for us," Pietz said.
While the recession deepens in some parts of the country, things are looking up for this Southeast Kansas manufacturer and its home community. Although some of their future production could depend on an economic upturn in the next 15-18 months, Pietz expressed confidence for his company. "Our business is very strong right now, and we have some good things working," Pietz said.
For more information about NPI, visit their Web site at www.neodeshaplasticsinc.com