Port Authority transfers plant to Salem Logistics

EAST LIVERPOOL – The Columbiana County Port Authority can claim another success story as part of continuing efforts to keep former industrial complexes alive.

The Port Authority board on Monday transferred ownership of the former Eljer’s Plumbingware plant in Salem to Salem Logistics LLC nearly six years after taking possession of the closed facility to prevent it from laying dormant.

The Port Authority acquired the 326,000-square-foot building and 40 acres in 2007, with Salem Logistics providing the $250,000 for the purchase. The Port Authority turned around and leased it to Salem Logistics to operate.

This was done because of possible industrial contamination at the site. By agreeing to retain ownership, the Port Authority was also assuming responsibility for any possible contamination and installed a groundwater water monitoring well. If contamination was found, the Port Authority would have been eligible to seek state grants to clean up the site.

No such contamination was ever detected over the past five years, however, and Port Authority Chief Executive Office Tracy Drake said Salem Logistics is confident enough with the passage of time and negative test results to assume ownership of the property.

“We’re turning it back to them and they’re going to run it,” he said of the facility, which is almost completely rented out and used mostly for storage by various companies, he said.

“It would have been easy for the old owner just to let it sit, but we took an active role” in an effort to keep the plant viable, Drake said.

Salem Logistics owners Jim Pastore and Rob Swindell have made more than $500,000 in building improvements since they began leasing the facility.

The Port Authority did the same thing with the former NRM property just outside Columbiana, obtaining state and federal money to clean up the site and turning it over to the real owner. The site is now home to several businesses serving the oil and gas boom underway in the area.

In other Port Authority action, the board approved a formal agreement to borrow $3.5 million from the Ohio Development Services Agency to fund improvements at the riverfront terminal/industrial park in Wellsville.

Ten months ago, the Port Authority accepted the loan terms from the ODSA, formerly the Ohio Department of Development, and it has taken since then for the agreement to be put in writing for the parties to sign. The money is part of a major expansion at the park, with tenant CIMBAR Performance Minerals contributing $6.8 million as part of a joint venture with Anchor Drilling Fluids, which produces drilling fluid used in the shale gas industry.

The loan will be forgiven if certain benchmarks are met, including completion of the project within one year and the creation of at least 20 full-time jobs. Drake said the number of jobs already exceeds 20, and other benchmarks have also been met.

“So we’re already ahead of schedule … I don’t think we’re going to have any issue demonstrating we’ve met all of the requirements by the end of the year,” he said.