A Danville manufacturer bitten like many others by the floundering economy will be adding jobs on the heels of a recent upswing in demand.
Green Boiler Technologies of Danville will add 27 full-time jobs and invest $365,000, which will include improvements to the West Walnut Street facility. GBT makes boilers, water heaters and boiler room accessories.
The positions will include seven technical or engineering jobs, while the rest will be a variety of jobs on the plant floor. The minimum pay for the jobs is $10.42 per hour — a baseline the company was required to disclose to the state to receive incentives — but General Manager Randy Woolum said the salaries will vary depending on the skillset required for various assembly and manufacturing positions.
According to a news release, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority has preliminarily approved up to $300,000 in tax incentives for GBT through the Kentucky Business Investment program. The company will receive corporate income tax credits and wage assessments.
“The economic downturn the last couple of years has been very difficult for a lot of businesses, both small and large,” Woolum said in the release. “We are pleased that we have started to see positive changes taking place in the commercial heating market and are hopeful that they continue. The economic development funds will provide us with opportunities to better react and manage these changes through controlled hiring as well as equipment upgrades. We are grateful for the commonwealth’s incentives, and we appreciate Kentucky’s endorsement.”
Local and state leaders expressed delight at the news a company with ties to the business community that span generations is reaffirming its commitment.
“I’m pleased the commonwealth is equipped to partner with Green Boiler Technologies, so that it can invest in its Kentucky plant, remain competitive and grow more than two dozen new jobs,” Gov. Steve Beshear said in a press release. “This is great news for GBT, the Danville area and the commonwealth.”
Green Boiler Technologies started in 2007, and owner Stuart Miller purchased Sellers Engineering in 2008. Sellers started in Chicago in 1931 and moved to Danville in 1946 where the company has operated until it was acquired.
Sellers Engineering remains a division of Green Boiler Technologies, in large part because of the value of the nearly 80-year-old company’s name.
Any stirring in the local industrial sector is welcome with the national economy sending conflicting signals about whether the clouds are lifting or a dreaded second dip in the recession may loom. Jody Lassiter, president and chief executive officer of the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership, has worked with GBT¿on securing incentives since the 2008 acquisition and communicated frequently with state cabinet officials about the company’s needs.
“Without question, the downturn in the economy from 2008 to 2011 caused many institutional users to postpone replacement of existing boiler equipment or purchase of new equipment,” Lassiter said. “The considerable jump in GBT’s orders is a promising indication that investments for new equipment are being made.”
The people added to the workforce at GBT will be able to get to work right away. The company currently is trying to keep up with a sudden boom in business.
Phones that sat silent not long ago are ringing now and sparks fly as welders strike their arcs around the hulking boilers that cover every inch of available space on the plant floor.
“It’s been about two months ago when we started seeing this influx of business,” Woolum said. “When it happened, it happened all at once.”
It wasn't like this the same time last year.
Woolum has ridden out economic ups and downs over nearly 30 years with Sellers Engineering but never the way things went dead in 2010. He describes it as having a faucet suddenly turned off.
Large industrial clients such as school systems, prisons and hotels tried to conserve cash as long as they could and not replace their equipment. The company had to cut 50 percent of both its salaried and hourly workforce in 2011. There are currently 25 full-time employees and an office staff of 13.
Then, just as suddenly as it had fallen off, business began to pour in again. The company has been inundated with orders for products from all over the country, including a commitment to provide all of the boilers for San Antonio Public Schools.
“We went through some very tough times we are still working through in some ways, but I’ve never seen that volume of business come in at once,” Woolum said. “It presents a whole new set of issues, but they are the kind we like to work on.”
The company is positioning itself to capitalize on the “green” part of its name to stay competitive in the marketplace.
Woolum said GBT is banking on making more energy-efficient boilers that can have an impact on both the environment and a customer’s bottom line. The company’s latest product is a boiler capable of 98 percent efficiency.
GBT also is working on products that be switched from traditional fuel sources to methane automatically or manually.
“People are looking for alternative energy sources as a way to save some money and get more efficient,” Woolum said.