Less than six months after a fire devastated portions of two Richmond, Ind.-based plastics businesses, one company is rebuilding - and expanding - with financial aid from local officials. But the smaller of the two still is struggling, its owner said.
Fire officials said the Sept. 14 blaze started after a motor malfunctioned in a warehouse owned by custom sheet extruder Primex Plastics Corp.
Flames destroyed the building and about 1.4 million pounds of stored polypropylene and polyethylene resin. They then jumped nearby railroad tracks to consume the headquarters of plastics research firm JHG Associates. In all, the fire did about $12 million in damage.
The Richmond Palladium-Item newspaper reported Feb. 25 that Primex soon could begin construction on two new buildings totaling 42,500 square feet, with two-thirds of that space devoted to manufacturing.
Primex officials were unavailable for comment.
On Feb. 25, the Richmond Redevelopment Commission approved a $100,000 grant to pay half the cost of relocating a sewer line for Primex so the company could rebuild. Wayne County, Ind., commissioners March 5 approved an additional $100,000 for the project, with funds coming from Richmond's tax increment financing authority.
``Primex is a large employer in our community and it's been an integral part of the community for a long time. So we're happy that not only have they been able to rebuild, but they're able to expand their footprint,'' said Bob Snyder, business development and retention manager for the Economic Development Corp. of Wayne County, in a Feb. 28 telephone interview.
About 300 of Primex's 1,000 North American employees work in Richmond at the company's corrugated sheet plant.
JHG owner Jim Grimm said he and three employees have been working in rented space since the fire ruined their 20,000-square-foot building.
``We're trying hard to get back up and running,'' he said Feb. 25. ``[Primex] only lost a warehouse, but we've lost everything.''
JHG develops products and makes a specialty pellet that allows product lots to be tracked. The company also markets laminating equipment for Graphica Technologies Ltd. of Auckland, New Zealand.
Grimm recently bought a Killion 1.25-inch extruder, which he hopes to have operational by spring. JHG is continuing to import laminating machines, so that part of the business is operating, he said.
But because his firm is so small, JHG is not eligible for anything near the amount of public money Primex has received, he said. ``We've got some pretty good accounts that have stuck with us - that's half the battle,'' Grimm said.