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Yes, indeed, Marvin's helps deliver Phoenix Closures plant to Greencastle

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

While momentous decisions have long been made over tankards of ale, glasses of wine or multi-course state dinners, this may be the first time a major corporate conclusion has been reached over garlic cheeseburgers and cheese fries.

Yes, we can all credit Marvin's -- the same folks who deliver anywhere and have made the initials GCB as famously familiar in Greencastle as FDR, JFK and RFD -- with a major assist in bringing the community's newest industrial addition to town.

Phoenix Closures President Bert Miller revealed that unexpected connection Tuesday as he addressed a grand opening gathering at his company's newest manufacturing facility in the old Oxford Automotive/Greencastle Manufacturing plant on the city's southwest side.

It was Marvin's that provided the location and apparently the ambience of a calming, welcoming atmosphere that helped Phoenix officials change their minds about tackling the 223,000-square-foot Oxford albatross.

Phoenix officials had been on the lookout for a Midwest plant they could repurpose into their fourth manufacturing facility for several years. But in 2008, 2009 and 2010, "nothing tickled our fancy," Miller admitted.

Yet the dingy, dirty, vacant, reeking-of-cutting-oil Oxford plant kept rearing its ugly head in internal discussions and on site scouts' lists.

"That one building kept popping up time and again," Miller said, as it met much of the crucial criteria Phoenix needed.

It had a rail siding. The floors were reinforced by 12 inches of concrete. It had high ceilings capable of accommodating cranes. It offered close proximity to interstate transportation over both I-70 and I-74. And its 54 acres offered room for expansion.

So Miller and his advisers decided that while they didn't like the looks of the building itself, they still needed to take a look at it.

Despite their doubts, they drove to Greencastle on a damp, chilly April day in 2010 and met Bill Dory of the Greencastle/Putnam County Economic Development Center for a flashlight tour of the unheated, former auto parts manufacturing facility.

There were pits and pitfalls. Pits in the floor where presses once ran. Discarded equipment and other obstacles all around.

"It was one of the scariest facilities I've ever been in," Miller conceded.

And after 30 minutes, Phoenix's finest had had enough.

Engineering head Bill Feigl, who Miller said had never seen a building project he couldn't tackle, said, "I can't do this one."

So Miller told Dory to turn off his flashlight and pack it in. He was cutting the tour short. The building just wasn't going to work for Phoenix.

The group said goodbye to Dory and followed the lead of Miller's son Albert, who went to DePauw University, and descended upon Marvin's for lunch.

"So there, over our garlic burgers at Marvin's, we got talking about it," Miller recalled.

"It was just the perfect facility -- if it weren't such a pit," he said, explaining that the facility had been sold at auction once and the Denver firm that bought it stripped out all the equipment, shipped it off to a buyer in India and locked the doors, figuring on never seeing it or Greencastle again.

As the Phoenix folks munched on GCBs and cheese fries, they chewed over the idea some more and softened their stance.

Feigl told Miller he didn't actually say he couldn't do it -- as long as his boss let him remove the roof (a seven-figure cost).

"The 'ah-ha' moment," Miller said, came when Feigl suggested they wouldn't be trying to rehab the building as much as they would be rebuilding a building that Miller had earlier told Dory "had good bones."

Miller, meanwhile, was thinking that if that roof comes off, the insulation comes out and then the environmental headaches begin.

But they agreed to explore it some more, and remarkably the environmental assessment was good.

"It was a pretty clean site," Miller said, with no asbestos and no PCBs to clean up.

So after first talking about the old Oxford site in 2008 and finally checking it out in April 2010, Phoenix announced the acquisition of the property this past August .

"Marvin's, as you have heard, played a key role," Dory also noted during his remarks Tuesday.

And in a gesture symbolic of the courtship of Phoenix Closures, Dory presented key company personnel with a red gift bag at the conclusion of the program.

Inside each, to the great delight of the recipients, was a new flashlight.

Fitting, but maybe even more apropos would have been a GCB and some cheese fries.

After all, you've got to say it: Marvin's delivers again.