On May 7th, 2016, Greg Christy and his team at Northeast Treaters will present the results of a $8 million plant renovation effort at the grand re-opening of their Athens facility.
The site has housed a wood products pressure treatment plant since the 1970s, which was purchased its current occupant in 1996. After over 40 years producing pressure-treated lumber, some major challenges questioned the viability of the plant remaining in Greene County.
First of all, there had been very little done to update the facility since it’s construction, aging infrastructure made it difficult for Northeast to fulfill wholesale orders from their area customers (Retail Lumberyards and Home Centers) let alone expand their customer base.
Secondly, production practices prior to the environmental legislation of the 1970s and 1980s would impose significant clean-up costs. If Northeast were to close the plant, any new operator would need to invest millions of dollars in Brownfield Remediation to bring the site into compliance with current laws.
Rene VanSchaack, Executive Director of the Greene County Industrial Development Agency, summarizes the situation: “The hard truth was also two-fold: Unless significant renovations were made, Northeast Treaters would be unable to meet production for their current customers, and there would be no capacity for growth. If the company were to close, at least 25 full-time manufacturing jobs would be lost, and it would be difficult to re-use the property.”
The company and the County were committed to not just keeping the plant open, but laying the ground work for the sustainable growth of both revenue and jobs. Northeast Treaters applied to the Greene IDA in March of 2015 for assistance with its modernization effort, and the results are documented on the project page of the IDA website. The IDA also worked to improve rail access to the site, and obtain natural gas service. A summary of the public incentives provided through the IDA included: A Mortgage Tax Exemption on additional funding required for Brownfield remediation, and; A Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) that freezes facility taxes at the 2015-16 level for 7 years.
Greg Christy, President & COO of Northeast Treaters, Inc., describes the project: “$2 Million was invested in the environmental cleanup alone, plus additional $6 Million for expansion and modernization. Plant efficiency was improved by 34% - resulting in a major increase in capacity, and significantly decreasing the number of fork-lift ‘touches’ required to move the lumber through the treating process.” Before the project, production capacity was 32MM board feet based on 24-hour operation, 6 days a week. Today, the plant can process 50MM board feet utilizing a single shift, 5 days a week, and that capacity can double by adding a second production shift. The internal production process is controlled and monitored using system-specific software that moves each load through each stage of treatment.
The new materials handling system moves the lumber through the 5 stages of pressure-treating process, improving both the through-put time and the quality of the finished product. Christy continues: “Every time a forklift has to ‘touch’ a load of lumber, the product suffers damage. The new handling system only requires a fork-lift to load the intake of the roller-conveyor at the start of the process, then unload the finished product, eliminating 9 touches required by the former system.
The overall site of the plant was increased from 13 acres to 33 acres with the acquisition of an adjacent property, and a 2.5 acre lumber storage yard has been created. This added capacity will allow for a systematic refurbishment of the asphalt surfaces of the plant, planned to be implemented over the next few years.
The impact of these improvements, in conjunction with the company’s new private trucking fleet and kiln-drying capability, will result in sustainable business growth and more hiring to support production increases. “Northeast Treaters Board of Directors is committed to doing business in New York”, says Christy, “and the support we received from Greene County and Town agencies has greatly contributed to our ability to produce more, higher quality treated lumber products here in Athens, NY.”