Andrew Feucht has big plans for Weston & Associates LLC, the national storage tank company he formed with his father, Ronald Feucht, in 2017 and where he is now president. But those plans don't include moving the company out of its home base in Ohio's Stark County.
To stay there and operate effectively, though, Andrew Feucht said he needs to reconfigure the company over the next couple of years, so he's looking for land to build on, preferably near Weston's current headquarters in Navarre.
"It's kind of where our roots are and where our employees are," Feucht said. "But we're spread all over, and Navarre's not that big. … We're pretty much outgrowing it."
The company only has 11 direct full-time employees, but that belies the size of its sprawling operations. Weston works around the nation and world building tank-liner systems for dry and liquid storage. One of its chief products is a tough vinyl lining system that can be installed in all shapes and sizes of tanks to protect and isolate their contents, whether it's crude oil, potable water or something else.
Weston works through about 120 sales reps across the country, Feucht said, along with even more contractors it has certified to work with and install its systems.
"There are about 150 [contractors] out there working on any given day" at various sites, Feucht said. A bit fewer at the moment, he added, because of some restrictions in parts of the U.S. from coronavirus.
The company, according to a filing with JobsOhio provided by Weston, had revenue of $16.8 million in 2019. It told the state agency it plans to spend $1.8 million to build a new facility, which the company told the state would help it add about 25 new employees over the next three years.
Weston currently occupies a 3,000-square-foot building it owns in Navarre to house its offices. The company also has a 10,000-square-foot prototyping facility nearby that it uses for product development, and it uses about 50,000 square feet of a 500,000-square-foot manufacturing plant, formerly a Shearer's Foods plant in Massillon, which Weston will soon vacate.
Feucht said he was recently told by his landlord that Akron, Ohio-based Gojo Inc. plans to take over the entire 500,000 square feet to expand its production. Gojo, the maker of the Purell-brand hand sanitizer, announced in April that it was looking at facilities near Navarre in Stark County but didn't specify exactly where.
Feucht said Weston plans to soon do some of its production work in a 17,500-square-foot plant that it recently leased, also in Massillon. He said he's also signed a letter of intent to lease another 150,000 square feet in that same building to house a $250,000 vinyl fabrication machine Weston just purchased for large jobs.
However, Feucht ultimately wants to consolidate all of these operations into a single site. To do that, the company needs about 5 acres on which to build, and it's now looking for just such a site, Feucht said.
"We're working with Stark County and their development board and teams to build an all-in-one, state-of-the-art facility," he said.
The company has looked at several sites, but so far it has not found what it wants for the price it wants to pay.
"One site we looked at was $50,000 an acre," Feucht said.
But the company has some time to look, he added, and is hoping for a better deal.
It may find one, said Dan Spring, president of NAI Spring in Canton, Ohio, who has worked with Feucht on previous real estate deals and hopes to help Weston with its search.
Prices of $50,000 an acre, or even higher, are common in Stark County when it comes to industrial parks and other sites with built-out infrastructure and other amenities, Spring said. Other land that was likely under a farmer's plow not long ago can be had for less, he added, but it often won't have the roads and utilities that industrial users often need.
"By the time you put utilities in, roads and streets and everything else, the developer has $25,000 [per acre] or so in it," Spring said, adding that while he expects industrial land to be less affected by the current economic downturn than land zoned for retail or office space, there's still an impact.
"I'm not seeing much demand for anything at the moment. But industrial and distribution space was always the toughest to find and probably still will be," Spring said.
The current drop in demand means Weston might be looking at an opportune time, especially if it's a patient buyer.
"No question, it's a good time to be looking," Spring said.
As for Weston itself, so far, the coronavirus crisis is presenting both challenges and opportunities. Feucht said it's difficult to get contractors on-site to do installations in some parts of the country. At the same time, he's seeing a strong increase in demand among oil and gas clients, many of which are trying to expand their crude oil storage capacity in light of the recent crash in oil prices.
In the meantime, Feucht is expanding into entirely new realms and putting Weston's vinyl production capacities to work while there's a temporary lull due to COVID-19. Feucht said he's formed a new subsidiary called Specialty Products by Weston that's making sneeze protectors for retailers. The protectors are transparent vinyl separators that go between a cashier and customers.
Weston is making the guards initially for Goodwill stores in Northeast Ohio, Feucht said, but hopes to expand that business to other Goodwill stores and to retailers.
"I don't know how many [Goodwill stores] we'll get to do. There was talk of 11,000, but we'll see," Feucht said. "That's completely different than our day-to-day business, but we shifted gears. … Every gas station, every teller at a bank, retail stores — anywhere there's a hand-to-hand transaction — this can help keep the customer and employees safe."