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Olympic opens new plant

executives have high hopes

September 21, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The cavernous factory floor of a steel processing plant was an incongruous setting for a candlelight dinner with a live jazz combo Tuesday, but it was in celebration of the grand opening of the new Olympic Steel plant in the Chambers-5 Business Park.

"Things that in the past customers were doing in their own plants are being outsourced now," said Jerry Gea, Northeast Region vice president of the Cleveland, Ohio, company.

Among the heavy equipment manufacturers for which Olympic will produce parts are Grove Worldwide in Shady Grove, Pa.; JLG Industries in McConnellsburg, Pa.; and Ingersoll-Rand in Chambersburg.

"We're continuing to ramp up. You come in here next year and it will be jammed," Gea said of the 87,000-square-foot building. The plant employs 42 people, but he expects that will exceed 60 within a few months as second and third shifts are added.

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Ground was broken on the 11-acre building site Sept. 23, 1998, and production began last month, Gea said. Tuesday evening was an opportunity for customers and other guests to tour the plant.

Some foundation work has already been done on a second phase that will double the plant's size when product demand increases. Gea said Olympic would examine that during the first quarter of next year.

The investment in the plant was $7.5 million, according to company figures. Along its 800-foot length is a cutting machine that can use gas or electric torches to cut steel, along with milling, drilling and other equipment. A second cutter will be installed next month.

Some of the machinery came from the former JNT Precision Machining Co. of McConnellsburg, which Olympic purchased in July 1998, according to Cathy S. Kish, the director of Investor Relations.

Gea said Olympic manufactures parts for about 500 customers at its 15 plants. This one will make base plates for manlifts, side shields, tubular steel items and other parts.

The proximity of heavy equipment manufacturers, access to rail lines in the park and three nearby interstates were among the reasons Olympic built the plant in Chambersburg, according to company officials.

Kish said Olympic employs more than 1,000 people at its plants and had gross sales approaching $600 million in 1998.

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