CEC touts new painting plant in Sheridan
CEC was founded in 1981 by Roger Smith and his son, Gary. It employs about 80 workers in the manufacture of heavy construction equipment, including rock crushers, concrete recyclers, slag processors and aggregate washers at his home base in Tualatin.
In the past, the company has contracted out the painting of finished pieces. With development of the new plant, it plans to bring that work in-house, creating 18 new skilled-trade jobs in Yamhill County.
Roger Smith said CEC chose the eight-acre former Liberty Homes site because it featured ample land area, a concrete-block building suitable for paint plant retrofitting, a sprinkler system for fire suppression and a 2,000-amp electrical feed. It lies just off Highway 18B at 540 S.E. Jefferson St., so also has good transportation access, he noted.
Smith said CEC had undertaken a major upgrade at the location. He said it had also brought in a complement of specialized equipment, including a 92-foot crane.
“We have all the tools we need for every product we have today,” he said.
CEC already has the plant operational, and Smith said he is pleased with its performance so far.
“I thought there would be a good core of workers in the area, and I found that to be true,” he said. He said many of the company hires had previous experience in the field, but the company was also teaching them new techniques.
Smith said painting facilities have some exacting requirements.
He said the Sheridan plant has been equipped with blast-proof lighting, a state-of-the-art air-filtering system, removable and replaceable plastic wall coverings and a steel ceiling. He said the filtration system is so effective that the air going out is cleaner than the air coming in.
Smith said the company had suffered during the recession, but was now on the rebound. “We’ve come through some difficult times and survived it fine,” he said.
Though he acknowledged the company is a lot smaller today than it once was, he said, “We’re feeling that business is starting to pick up, finally. Now it’s time to go the other way.”
CEC maintains a sales office in Texas and has individual sales representatives positioned around the country. It now only serves the U.S. market, but also exports equipment to about 30 other countries.
Smith said he was delighted at the local reception he’d gotten. “I’m amazed how much support we have found in the community,” he said.
Officials were quick to return the compliment.
“It’s awesome,” Commissioner Allen Springer said of the new plant. “It’s a great shot in the arm for this end of the county, which needs it. These guys have made a big impact.”
Citing the West Valley’s “hard-working, core-value American work force,” he said, “They couldn’t have landed in a better spot.”
He was accompanied by both his fellow commissioners, Mary Stern and Kathy George, and they were equally enthusiastic. So was Jody Christensen, executive director for the McMinnville Economic Development Partnership.
“This is just a great example of what can be done,” Christensen said. She credited Springer and Mitchell Gee, a business development officer for the state, with doing a lot of the early spade work with the company.
Springer said, “It sent a message that we’re a team out here, that we’re after economic development and we’ve got the proper attitude and vision for it. I’m excited.”
City Manager Frank Sheridan said the new plant was a boon for the city of Sheridan. He said there are two other buildings available at the site, where Liberty Homes once employed almost 500 workers, and he’d love to see more of the same.
“I think he’s happy with his workers,” Sheridan said. “They’re hard-working. That’s a great indication of what’s available in the West Valley.”
Gary Smith also credited McMinnville’s embrace of LEAN manufacturing techniques, championed by Christensen, as a factor in the decision.
“In order to compete on a worldwide basis, we are very deep into LEAN manufacturing,” he said. “It will make America competitive in the world market.”
And he said the local work force CEC had assembled was buying into that.