Blairsville company expands to Derry Township
BLAIRSVILLE--Belt-tightening may be in order for many businesses during the current economic downturn.
But one Blairsville company that knows a thing or two about belts is planning to expand to a nearby site in Derry Township.
According to President and CEO Troy Dolan, the 21-year-old Conveyor Services Corp. has outgrown its home along Conemaugh and North Spring streets, where technicians repair, resize and recondition rubber conveyor belts for the mining, power generation, manufacturing and paper industries.
"Our new facility will allow us to do larger jobs," Dolan said. "It's another step in the company moving forward."
CSC will build a steel building on 48 acres at the northwest corner of routes 22 and 982 west of Blairsville.
While details of the building have yet to be finalized, Dolan said it is expected to cost in excess of $1 million and will be as much as three times larger than a similar 8,400-square-foot facility Conveyor Services constructed at a branch location in Chapmanville, W. Va.
The Derry Township project is to be handled by Clawson Construction of Blairsville, which has completed previous building improvements for the company.
"We'd like to be in the new facility by mid 2004," Dolan said.
To make way for the project, he intends to raze the Windmill Farms restaurant previously operated by Lee and Mary Jo Barnhart. The Barnharts retired from the restaurant business in June and recently sold the land to Dolan and his wife Karrie for $365,000.
An adjacent skeet shoot range eventually will be removed. For the time being, Dolan said he is allowing residents who use the range to continue doing so free of charge, if they bring their own clay pigeons.
Dolan said the Derry Township property, in addition to its spaciousness, will provide Con
veyor Services easy access on Rt. 22.
In recent planning for widening the highway to four lanes, state officials indicated they intend to provide a break and a red light in the median barrier at the Rt. 982 intersection.
An added benefit, Dolan noted, will be free gas from a well.
According to Dolan, the new Derry Township building will more than double the space Conveyor Services currently has available in Blairsville.
A complex of several buildings on Conemaugh and Spring streets provides 19,704 square feet for Conveyor Services and 6,600 square feet for its sister company, Classic Conveyor Components.
The latter makes and distributes several conveyor parts--including: urethane scrapers, which clean away residual material that sticks to the rubber belts; idlers, rounded bars which support the belt as it rolls along.
Dolan noted Conveyor Services reconditions about 30,000 feet of belt per month in its original shop on Spring Street. That facility will be closed and all conveyor belt service tasks will be switched to the Derry Township site.
"We'll have one central location" instead of a "piecemeal" arrangement of separate buildings, Dolan said.
Some of the shop area to be vacated by Conveyor Services will provide room for expansion by Classic Conveyor Components.
The two related companies, which are both headquartered in Blairsville, employ 165 people at six locations. At Blairsville, the work force consists of 20 office and sales staff and 68 field technicians.
According to Dolan, the 20 people with desk jobs and Classic Conveyor employees will remain in Blairsville, while Conveyor Service technicians eventually will report to work at the new facility in the township.
Currently, Dolan said, a majority of the belts handled at Conveyor Services' Blairsville location are intended for the coal mining industry.
The rubber belts are wound into rolls weighing up to 20 tons.
Dolan said the goal at the new township facility is to "significantly" increase the weight of belts which can be accommodated. That will allow local crews to work on heavier steel cable belts which are used in the copper and hard rock mining industries in Arizona.
"It's like having a steel-belted tire," Dolan said of the heavier belts.
Conveyor Services' Derry Township facility will have overhead cranes to handle the heavier materials.
Also, Dolan said, the township building will provide room for additional work stations.
Conveyor Services currently operates three large tables for splicing together sections of belt and bonding them with a vulcanizing process. Each table is equipped with a large press which applies heat and pressure to create the bond.
At the new facility, Dolan expects to have five tables running on three shifts. That expansion of the reconditioning work alone should result in about a dozen new jobs when the Derry Township building opens, he indicated.
Meanwhile, he noted, about 60 percent of the company's growing work load is conducted at customers' facilities.
"We're continuing to hire," Dolan said. "We're going to put an additional 10 people on come the first of the year."
"We're on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Dolan said.
That means Blairsville crews may be running machinery at odd hours to manipulate large rubber belts needed for an emergency order.
With removal of such heavy work from a densely populated section of Blairsville to the outlying township, "We're going to try to give the neighbors some relief," Dolan said.
Limited parking also is an issue at the current Blairsville location, both for workers and for the company's larger vehicles.
Conveyor Services currently owns two tractor-trailers and Dolan plans to purchase more. He said, "We need a fleet of four trucks and room to park them."
"We're sorry to see him leave," Blairsville Borough Manager Ron Hood said of Dolan's planned move of the Conveyor Services shop. "He brings a lot of business into town."
While aware that the company intends to maintain a presence in the town, Hood noted any exodus of jobs to the township site will have a minimal impact on the borough tax base--limited to the occupational privilege tax.
He noted there had been parking problems near the Conveyor Services site. But, "They've been worked out agreeably."
Although most of the major coal operators closed their mines in Indiana County over the past decade, Dolan noted the coal industry--and the need for mine conveyor belt services-still is strong in Pennsylvania.
"Pennsylvania is still the fourth largest coal-producing state," behind Wyoming, Kentucky and West Virginia, Dolan said. He added, "The two largest coal mines in the United States are outside of Washington, PA."
But, as a result of changing clean air regulations, demand has been growing for low-sulphur, low-ash coal in states such as Colorado and Utah.
Over the past several years, Conveyor Services has responded to that shift, purchasing facilities in Colorado and Utah.
Other Conveyor Services branches are operating in Sabina, Ohio, and Chapmanville, W. Va., while Classic Components has a second location in Logan, W. Va.
According to Dolan, the latest spin-off venture is Load Out Services based in Somerset, Colo.
Launched last April, the company constructs facilities for loading coal or other material onto trucks or rail cars.
Even with the company's recent expansions elsewhere, Dolan never considered moving the company headquarters out of Blairsville.
Noting that the work involved in servicing conveyor belts is labor-intensive, he said, "Here in the east we're able to get a good core work force. The people in this area have an excellent work ethic."
Many of the local Conveyor Services customers live in the Blairsville area. The company also uses local suppliers, Dolan said.
Troy Dolan and other family members who are involved in the corporation continue to live in the area.
His father Patrick Dolan, now retired, founded the company in December 1981.
One brother, Patrick Jr., is vice president and general manager of Classic Conveyor Components.
Another brother, Keith, has an ownership interest in Conveyor Services.
According to Troy Dolan, the family's group of companies is on target for completing about $48 to $50 million in business for 2002.
His goal is to double that figure.
"We want to start going overseas," he said, citing opportunities in Indonesia, Singapore and Australia.
Classic Conveyor Components already has made some sales in Australia, Dolan noted.
Meanwhile Mary Jo Barnhart and her husband have been busy hauling the many mounted animal trophies they had on display in their restaurant to their home on the opposite side of Rt. 22.
Having operated the Windmill Farms Restaurant since 1986, she noted the thoughts of retirement became a reality when the Dolans expressed interest in the property.
Said Mrs. Barnhart, "We had talked about it before, and then Troy came along with needing a bigger spot for his business."
The restaurant closed in June.
Lee Barnhart, who will soon be 70, still operates a modular home business, Ideal Homes.
But his wife noted he is planning to wrap up that enterprise as well.
She said the pending arrival of Conveyor Services and widening of Rt. 22 bodes well for development of the highway corridor.
"I think in the future this area will build up," she said.