Joe Manchin visits Tank Works
Continually operating for the past 120 years and family owned for the last 30, Sistersville Tank Works welcomed U.S. Senator Joe Manchin on Friday.
Manchin, who earlier in the day met in St. Marys for a roundtable discussion with local officials and members of the Pleasants County Camber of Commerce, stopped in Sistersville around 3:30 p.m. for a scheduled visit.
Plant Manager Jason Morgan and his mother Darlene Morgan, vice president of the company, were both on hand to greet Senator Manchin and to explain a little about the history of their operation and how they are looking to improve and grow as a local business. Jason Morgan said around 30 years ago the plant was owned by a company out of Illinois that was struggling and ready to call it quits. He said his grandmother and mother, who were employees at the time, took advantage of the opportunity and purchased the plant. Jason Morgan said as plant manager he is in charge of the day-to-day operation, while his mother and grandmother manage the office, and his brother runs the shop.
Jason Morgan said plans are in the works to build a new state of the art facility in Pleasants County. He said the new plant will have 40,000 square feet along with new office space and restrooms. According to Jason Morgan, the new plant will have one large bay which will allow the company to take on bigger and bigger projects, like bullet tanks and large heat exchangers. He said the Sistersville plant will continue to operate with no downturn in business, but will be doing much smaller projects. He noted at the present location it becomes very difficult to move large tanks from the shop to the river and it is also very expensive. Some moves can cost as high as $35,000 and can be very time consuming and difficult to make. With the move to the new facility the company will have direct access to the railway and the river, which will eliminate the high cost moves and save the company a significant amount of time and money.
Senator Manchin, expressed his desire to do whatever he can to help small business people. He said there are several different ways he can do that. “In order to bring more good paying jobs to our state and improve the quality of life for our hard working families, we need to continue having open discussions about how we can coordinate our efforts and resources, make smart investments, and boost economic development in our local communities,” Senator Manchin said.
“One way we try and help companies is by connecting them with the import-export bank,” he noted. Manchin said it is a great way for companies to exchange funds when dealing with foreign markets. He said they also want to make sure businesses like Sistersville Tank Works are taking advantage of the oil and gas boom in West Virginia.
Manchin expressed concern with the rate hikes he said are coming for electric. He spoke about the cost of doing business in West Virginia and how we should be doing all we can to help promote the use of fossil fuels, including coal.
“We hear a lot about global climate and since it is global, we should have a global fix,” said Manchin. Standards for power plants should be set where the playing field is equal, he asserted; so we will not have to shoulder the whole load.
Manchin said he was very impressed with the Sistersville plant. He said he comes from a family of small business owners and he knows how difficult it can be. Manchin said, “I look forward to meeting with residents to hear their concerns and ideas for making the Mountain State an even better place to live and do business.”
Jason Morgan said Sistersville Tank Works has a very good working relationship with the local banks. He said they have been great to work with, noting cash flow is very important especially when you are trying to expand and take advantage of the world market. He said, if someone would have told his grandmother 20 years ago they would be selling to Austria or China, she would have thought they were crazy. He said he was very interested in the import-export bank and would welcome any help the senator would offer.
When asked by Senator Manchin why Jason Morgan chose Pleasants County for the new facility, he said it was all about location. “We need to have access to the river.” He also said it should give the company a better draw for skilled labor. Tyler County Development Authority President Eric Peters said he tried to find a suitable location in Tyler County for the plant, but it just wasn’t available.
Jason Morgan said his shop is unionized and highly skilled. “I would put our welders up against any in the United States.” He said most of his welders have been trained in house and work out of the Boilermakers. He said the Sistersville plant employs 50 people with full benefits and he hopes to employ another 50 at the new location when it is up and running. “Competition for skilled labor is tough and we have had to raise our rates some to attract the people we have”, said Jason Morgan.
He said one thing he very proud of is that his mother was the 1988 West Virginia State Business Person of the Year and was featured in Time Magazine. Senator Manchin said it is wonderful to see small businesses likes this flourish. He promised to do whatever he can to help.
Also present for the round table meeting were State Senator Larry Edgell, House Representative Roger Romine, and Sistersville Mayor Bill Rice. All three offered their service and commitment to helping local business and to continue working to provide opportunities for the local workforce.
Dan Beringer, plant manager of Momentive, in Friendly, was also at the meeting and he thanked Senator Manchin for his work and efforts to keep electric rates low. He said it is detrimental to the local plant for the rates to remain where they are. Manchin said it looks like electric will go higher as we move toward alternative fuel.
Before moving on for another meeting in Pittsburgh, Manchin took the time to tour the Sistersville Tank Works plant and to greet and talk to several of the Sistersville employees. Manchin seemed fascinated with some of the welding projects and the size of the tanks.