A little over a year ago (March 23, 2015), Sowegalive was treated to a tour of the Bainbridge Manufacturing facility and listened as CEO Abraham Levy laid out the plan to open the plant and put Decatur County folks to work. From last year’s article:
“More machinery will be arriving over the next three months, and the last piece should arrive in June. Levy said he planned to hire 3-5 workers in March; he said that for the first month, they would help do maintenance and cleaning (including pressure washing) of the factory’s surfaces, which still have peanut dust on them. After that, they will begin unwrapping some of the machinery components and putting them together.”
Levy also predicted that the operation would be running with three full shifts by the end of 2015:
“Full-scale production with the first shift will come in August, Levy predicted. He said that would be about 30 people.”
“We will start with one shift, then add a second 2-3 months later. By the end of 2015, we hope to be at full production with three shifts.”
If you drive by the facility on Highway 27 North, at the entrance to the Decatur County Industrial Park, you’ll most likely see a parking lot with just a couple of cars. There’s a sign by the road but, from the highway, it doesn’t seem like much progress has been made. When you drive up, there’s a sign on the guard post that directs job seekers to the Department of Labor. From the outside, progress seems miniscule.
On the inside, progress is happening, albeit slowly. There have been 5 people hired (all full time) according to Abraham Levy, CEO of Bainbridge Manufacturing. One of which is Daniel Medrano, a recent Bainbridge High School graduate. Daniel interned with Mr. Levy’s company and received significant training in the field of “reverse engineering”. Daniel works full time at the Bainbridge facility now (there will be another internship opportunity for Bainbridge High School juniors and seniors this summer – we’ll have more details on that later). Several of the other full time hires were previously unemployed or traveling out of state for work. But that’s just a handful of jobs (the 3-5 he predicted would come first last March) – when can we expect more (the shifts he predicted would be running at full speed by the end of 2015)?
I sat down with Mr. Levy this week and got an update on what’s happening.
Mr. Levy stated that progress has been painfully slow, mainly because of unforeseen hurdles. It’s taken longer than anticipated to clean up the peanut mess. Pressure washing and painting has kept four people busy for months. Equipment sits in unopened crates and beneath tarps because the floors aren’t ready to be coated.
“I was told they stored around 1,200 truckloads of peanuts inside this building. With the peanuts came the mice and rats. These destroyed the roof, ate the internet and electrical cables, ate the drywall, carpeting, etc. and left a very expensive mess! Every day we’ve had to clean inch by inch – pressure washing everything inside this building, disinfecting pipes and hand rails, patching up holes, cleaning, sanding, scrubbing, prepping and painting 180,000 square feet. Enormous progress has been made and we have not compromised or cut corners. We have paid attention to every little detail and invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to make this a world class facility.” –-Abraham Levy, CEO Bainbridge Manufacturing
When asked why, for example, he was so intent on coating and painting the floors white, Mr. Levy made a good point. He said, “If I wasn’t planning to invest in Bainbridge for the long term, I wouldn’t worry about white floors. I would install the machinery and get to work immediately. I would make the minimum investment necessary to get going. But I plan to be here for a long time. That’s why we are investing so much into this before we start production.” He stated the floors would be done by the same company that did the flooring for a Tesla plant in California. “We will be installing the same expensive floor materials Tesla uses in their electric vehicle manufacturing plant in California. When we are done it will look like a huge aerospace lab. We want our employees to work in the cleanest, safest and most comfortable environment.” Hopefully, the work on the floors will begin in the next couple of weeks. After that, machinery will be installed (barring any additional roadblocks).
Once the machinery is installed, the first round of hires will take place. Mr. Abraham expects that to be 25-30 jobs (the first shift he hoped for in 2015), all of which will be filled from the nearly 400 resumes he’s already received and reviewed. However, Mr. Levy was hesitant to predict a specific time frame citing the unforeseen circumstances he’s encountered thus far and the possibility of any yet to come.
Some research shows that Bainbridge Manufacturing’s contract with the City of Bainbridge calls for the first “job threshold” to be met by the end of 2016. At present, the first level of required employment hasn’t been met, however local leaders that I’ve spoken to are confident it will happen.
Obviously, the public has become somewhat weary of hearing the excuses. We are desperate for jobs and we were excited when Bainbridge Manufacturing announced they were coming to Bainbridge and were going to put people to work. However, with each passing day, that excitement has turned into doubt. If you can’t see any progress when you drive by, nothing must be going on, right? Well, not quite. Progress is happening, albeit slowly. But don’t take my word for it, take a look at the attached photos – the first photos of the inside of the building since Bainbridge Manufacturing took over.
“Our employees and community will be proud of this plant. It will definitely be one of the most advanced manufacturing facilities built in the United States.” — Abraham Levy, CEO Bainbridge Manufacturing