|Sun, Sep 21, 2014 10:03 AM
|Issue of September 17, 2014
July 16, 2014 | 10:25 AM
If there's a way anything can be done just a little bit better, Forrest Lucas will figure it out.
Last week, Lucas was joined by local dignitaries and some of his employees at the 350,000-square-foot Lucas Oil Plant 2 — the former Tower Automotive site in the Harrison County Business Park — as a ribbon was cut to announce the multi-million-dollar renovation of the site and to introduce an intricate oil viscosity modifier/improver that's already up and running.
"We were buying about a train car-load (of the altered oil) a week, and we wondered if we could make it ourselves. We looked into it and found out that we could and got things going from there," Lucas said. "The company that installed this machine, Silverson, said they wanted to make this a model of how it could be and show it off to the world to other prospective buyers. They did it right."
Lucas Oil founder and owner, Forrest Lucas, left, is joined by Harrison County Economic Development Corp. director Darrell Voelker and David Lett, CEO of Harrison REMC, at the ribbon cutting for a multi-million-dollar oil viscosity modifier and grand opening of a second Lucas Oil warehouse location in the Harrison County Business Park last week. Photo by Alan Stewart
The computer-controlled viscosity improver pre-heats base oil with a large furnace (heating it in about half the time it's normally done) and sends the warm fluid to a large holding tank, where polymers are added and then moved to a separate tank before the product is sent via the Lucas Rail Lines to Lucas Oil's Plant 1, located along Harrison Way just a few hundred yards to the east of Plant 2.
While the jewel is the viscosity improvement system, the crown that holds it is the building.
"We've spent several million on the site the last four years," Lucas said. "The structure was almost at the point of falling in on itself. We cleaned it, added motion-detection lighting, painted the ceiling and walls white and pretty much fixed everything.
"The building is so big that it is almost like a cave as far as temperature," he said. "In the winter, it never got below 40 degrees, and, as warm as it is outside right now, it's still comfortable in here.
"Most of what was in here after Tower closed was repossessed and not kindly," Lucas continued. "The doors were ruined, the roof was leaking and everything was wore out. We spent a lot of money bringing it back, and now we've opened some space at the other plant because we can move inventory that doesn't move as quick out here. We have the biggest variety of shelf products of any oil company in the world, and we're in more than 30,000 auto parts stores nationwide and at every truck stop in America we are a must-have. You need a place to keep some of that product before it is shipped out. This gives us that space."
Part of Plant 2 also houses Ramsey Popcorn's shipping facility.
The opening of Plant 2 will add about eight jobs initially but, as production goes up, the number of jobs could increase.
"As much as anything, the fact that Forrest brought this building back is amazing. It wasn't that long ago where, if you walked through here, you'd be walking on three inches of dust," Darrell Voelker, director of the Harrison County Economic Development Corp., said. "And with the introduction and investment in this amazing machine, he helps keep Harrison County dollars here. He's been a great partner with Harrison County.
"I saw distribution as a possibility for this site, but I didn't think I'd ever see production, but that's what Forrest has brought here," he said.