Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

January 10, 2014

End of the (manufacturing) line

SKF being torn down

By MELINDA J. OVERSTREET
Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW — A former manufacturing plant that employed hundreds over the course of nearly 50 years will soon disappear.

SKF, which manufactures bearings and hubs for the automotive industry, closed its Glasgow facility at 1001 Happy Valley Road almost five years ago. At that time, it employed about 140 people, said Todd Metzger, real estate manager for the company.

SKF has tried to sell the 28.9-acre property since the facility closed, and the decision was made last year to level the 360,000-square-foot building. Demolition work had been delayed by the holidays and recent weather conditions, but resumed Thursday and is expected to wrap up this spring.

Metzger said it didn’t make sense for the company or for the city to have a large industrial structure sitting vacant.

“It just seems like this would be something to help reduce our cost to maintaining the building as well as speed up the sale,” he said. “We’ve been trying to sell the property for several years to a user that would use the building as it is, in an industrial use, the way we used it. ... We don’t have any potential buyers at this time.”

In talking with city planners, real estate brokers and appraisers, SKF officials learned that the long-term master plan for the Happy Valley Road area is commercial development, Metzger said. Nearby properties include a health center, car dealerships and retail stores.

“Basically we’re trying to make the property more usable to the next user,” he said. “The idea is the next owner of the property would not be a large factory. It would more likely be a commercial center.”

Metzger said the company will continue working with the Glasgow-Barren County Industrial Development Economic Authority to market the property.

Dan Iacconi, executive director of IDEA and a former manager at SKF, told IDEA board members  Friday morning that he is working with the company’s real estate people.

“I think that’s prime property over there,” he said.

Board chairman Owen Lambert asked Iacconi whether the property is likely to become a commercial area. Iacconi said it could be either commercial or industrial, noting the size of the lot.

“That’s really going to open that up,” Glasgow Mayor Rhonda Riherd Trautman said of the demolition, adding that she is eager to see the space upon completion.

Iacconi said the SKF building was the last of several available properties he showed prospective buyers when he started with IDEA in fall of 2009.

“I had facilities everywhere (then). We have no buildings to show now. None,” he said.

SKF’s production equipment was removed a few years ago, Metzger said, but some basic machinery, such as boilers, heating units and electric cable, remained.

Those elements were mostly removed before the end of the year, and as much as a third of the building has already been torn down, said Mark Wade, a former SKF manager who has been responsible for maintaining what’s left of the facility. These days, the remaining structure resembles a squared-off “U” shape.

On Friday, workers with Indiana-based Gentry Demolition used heavy machinery to sort massive mounds of material ranging from steel beams to cinder blocks. Scattered among the heaps were scraps of insulation, conduit and other metal pipes, as well as insulated wiring and a cluster of rubber membrane that had been part of the roof.

Bill McGlocklin, director of environmental affairs for SKF, said the company evaluating the building – which was built in the mid-1960s, with more added in the mid-1970s – in order to be prepared to deal with any issues that arise.

In particular, McGlocklin said, the company is interested in portions of the plant that were rebuilt  in the 1990s in preparation for manufacturing automotive hub units. As part of the floor was being rebuilt, seepage of mineral spirits was discovered and cleaned.

“In years past, we’ve done groundwater monitoring to make sure there’s no groundwater contamination, and there have been no issues with that,” McGlocklin said. “We’ve operated that facility for 50 years, and we did have underground tanks at one point that were removed.”

One tank contained the mineral spirits and was removed in the ‘80s; the other contained diesel fuel that was used as backup fuel for the heat-treat operations, he said.

“All that’s been taken out and cleaned up,” McGlocklin said.

Nonetheless, the company has taken samples for testing to ensure there are no residual issues, McGlocklin said.

Wade, who worked at the facility for 27 years, serving as environmental safety and health manager as well as human resources manager, said samples were taken for testing but he had not yet seen the results. He said the company will do whatever is necessary “to make sure it’s a clean site.”

“SKF never had any serious chemicals here, which was a plus – just some oils,” Wade said. “SKF has always been very proactive when it came to environmental safety and health.”

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