Plastic conduit extruder Blue Diamond Industries LLC is moving into new digs within Middlesboro, Ky., to replace and expand operations damaged in storms in February 2015.
The firm is renovating a 75,000-square-foot facility a mile from its existing site to house nine extrusion lines being relocated, plus two new conduit extrusion lines that are on order. Blue Diamond expects the new plant will be ready for equipment installation by mid-June.
Blue Diamond produces high density polyethylene conduit up to 6 inches in diameter. CEO Sherri Simpson said in a phone interview that conduit production continued at a rate sufficient to meet customer demand after snow, sleet and freezing rain storms damaged the original facility more than a year ago. Offices, laboratory and maintenance areas were “totaled” in the storms and those functions were relocated to temporary facilities. No one was injured in the roof collapse and the production area was not damaged.
“This is an opportunity to lay out the production area more efficiently,” Simpson said. Owners of the current leased plant are not interested in rebuilding, so Blue Diamond needed to find a new site.
“It was a long arduous search,” Simpson said. “We looked at several facilities in three different states, but it was always our desire to stay in Middlesboro where we started.”
Simpson said she wanted to retain experienced employees and offer new jobs in an area with a high unemployment rate. Middlesboro is in a so-called Promise Zone identified by President Obama as an area needing help to retrain workers. Kentucky's coal industry is suffering as utilities switch from coal to natural gas for power generation and the switch is leading to major job losses.
Simpson said Blue Diamond is working with Kentucky economic development agencies in hope of obtaining grants for job creation in its expansion. The business now employs about 85. The company had already been planning an expansion when the storms hit Middlesboro.
“We're planning on a staged move, so we can maintain our production capabilities during the moving process,” Blue Diamond plant manager Jody Crosby said in a news release.
Blue Diamond bought a nine-acre site with three buildings in Middlesboro.
Simpson is majority owner of the business, which is certified as a Women Owned Small Business Enterprise and as a Historically Underutilized Business Zone. The firm's annual sales are about $25 million.