Tuesday, the north side of Kokomo reclaimed a factory destined for the scrap heap and brought back 140 jobs many thought lost for good.
Five years after the former Kokomo Pottery closed up shop, new owners Patriot Porcelain are hard at work refurbishing the plant as part of a $16 million investment.
A year from now, the plan is for Porcelain to have 140 workers making vitreous pottery 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at the plant, producing about 425,000 pieces of product a year.
With help from the city of Kokomo, the state of Indiana, equity investors and guaranteed loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Patriot Porcelain is about to do something Kokomo has seen precious little of in the past two decades.
Instead of closing a north side plant, Patriot is redeveloping one. For a side of town which has seen Delco, Globe Stove, Kingston and other manufacturing sites close, the reopening of the pottery is a minor miracle.
“There’s been a lot of directed prayer sent your way. I think what you’re doing is great. Thank you,” former pottery worker and current local pastor Jeff Russell told Patriot president Jeff Van Weelden at a ceremony Tuesday.
Dow Dellinger, the attorney for the new company, praised the city of Kokomo’s involvement. Last year, with an option on the property running out, the city stepped in with a loan to help Patriot officials retain their claim to the factory.
“I talked with a lot of politicians and got lip service, but Mayor Goodnight got things done,” Dellinger said. “When the option on the building was running out and we realized we might need to find some money, the city helped us, and we gave them about nine hours advance notice.”
Patriot plans to bring in 10 new presses and about 13 robots, along with 1,000 feet of conveyor belt, turning a plant which was formerly a labor intensive, highly “hands-on” operation into a much cleaner, more automated plant.