Similar arrangements have been approved for other major Berkeley County employers, including Quad/Graphics and Orgill, Warner said. He was unable to specify what savings Essroc realized through the financing arrangement.
Essroc, which is a member of Italcementi Group based in Bergamo, Italy, agreed to purchase the 849-acre facility formerly known as Capitol Cement Corp. in 2002.
In addition to the bond financing, Essroc took advantage of the Governor's Guaranteed Work Force Program, which awarded the company $138,600 in the 2007-08 fiscal year to provide 175 company employees with training. Altogether, the company has spent about $2 million on training as part of efforts to convert the plant from a wet to a high-tech dry production process, plant manager Paul Biel said.
"They truly have worked with us in a very good way to help educate the people to get them ready for the new technology," Biel said of the state's assistance.
"Yes, it's painful for everybody right now because we're going through so much change," Biel said. "But on the other end of it, it's a very positive thing and people have to keep their eyes wide open to what all of the good things it's actually bringing."
While the state has helped the company, the plant overhaul also has helped fill area hotel rooms and restaurants with several hundred construction workers and contractors who have been working to make the project happen.
"We've actually injected a mini-stimulus package in the town of Martinsburg," Biel said. "Because it's huge, it's a lot of people and all of these people have to eat and all these people have to sleep."
While production will not be completely fine tuned until early next year, "by the end of December, the new plant will be pretty much fully operational," Biel said.
Production is switching from three kiln lines to one, but the new system greatly will reduce production time, Biel said.
"If you put a bucket (of material) in the end of the old kiln lines, before it got out the other end, it would be three hours," Biel said. "In this new system, it's 15 minutes."
"It's a completely different world and the expectations are different, too," Biel said. "We've changed the entire culture from what this plant has been for 40 to 50 years ..."
The new production line will be largely connected by a system of enclosed conveyors that will carry stone from the quarry to new storage facilities, then through the cement-making process. Coal shipped to the plant for fueling the process also will be stored in an enclosed facility as part of several measures to control dust.
Truck and tire wash systems also are being installed to control the tracking of dirt onto area roads, and the company is spending about $4.9 million on paving and greenery.
"We have lots of very proactive things that we are doing that you will see in the future that I think it will rock the town personally," Biel said.
"When the community looks at the plant in the future, you'll see contoured slopes with grass and wildflowers and trees across the top ... It will be really nice. It will not be what you were used to coming off (Queen Street)," Biel said. "I think people will be surprised, personally."
After permitting the project in 2005, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection officials said the modernization of the plant, which dates to the 1950s, would result in less emission of tiny particles and ozone-causing gases, but carbon monoxide emissions still would increase.
In 2006, the Martinsburg plant ranked 23rd among the 100 largest cement-producing facilities in the U.S. for on- and off-site releases of mercury and mercury compounds, according to Toxics Release Inventory data released in February by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The 500-foot preheat tower will dilute and more greatly disperse emitted particulate matter and other pollutants, officials have said.
Plant officials have said the new plant will be able to produce 1.8 million tons of cement per year, an increase that factored into the company's decision to close a plant in Frederick, Md. In addition to trucks, the company also is installing a new rail spur to ship product from the plant, Biel said.