CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Everybody who has seen the interior of the South Charleston stamping plant says it is so clean you could eat off the floor.
Everything looks new. Even better: The industrial beauty isn't just skin deep.
For example: The three-story-tall presses not only look nice with their fresh coat of green paint, they've been taken apart, re-finished, re-wired. And now some of them are married to millions of dollars worth of brand-new robots.
The plant's transformation is dramatic. In 2006, at the end of Union Stamping's tenure, the floors were greasy, the walls sooty and the air dense with oily smoke.
Now the floors have a fresh coat of battleship gray epoxy. The walls are white. The ceiling lamps are new. The skylights have been cleaned. The giant overhead cranes are painted bright orange. The letters on the signs affixed to the cranes have been re-painted in bold black relief.
"The detail involved with the refurbishing is just unbelievable," Mark Julian, director of business and industrial development in the state Development Office, said during a Tuesday tour.
"The work wasn't so much in the painting but in the preparation - cleaning everything and getting it ready to paint," said John Whitney. "This is the Ray Park touch. We refer to it as 'Ray Park's
Park, a veteran Cleveland financier, has owned the property since 1969. Whitney has worked for Park for 40 years. Whitney is general manager of the South Charleston Industrial Park and, as such, is the caretaker of the 30-acre property at 3100 MacCorkle Ave. SW.
An estimated $42 million has been invested in the stamping plant: A $15 million state loan that Park has since repaid plus an estimated $27 million invested by Park.
Built from 1919 to 1921, the plant has 922,000 square feet of space under roof. That's the equivalent of more than 20 football fields. For many years it was the largest building in West Virginia.
The building is so big you might not notice an indoor rail dock if you don't know to look for it. The dock can handle eight 60-foot-long rail cars.