Saturday, June 03, 2023

Effort to bring in employer progresses

by Canda Harbaugh & Western News
| March 10, 2009 12:00 AM

A bridge part building company that is estimated to employ 150-200 people at Libby’s Industrial District is closer to becoming a reality.

“Once we sign our agreements with the company and get the funding in place, there will probably be about a nine-month construction time,” said Paul Rumelhart, who has been working with the Coolidge, Ariz.-based Stinger Welding Inc. for months now.

Stinger Welding has already hired a Libby man who is training in Arizona, and plans to hire 20-25 more workers in the next two or three months who will be trained to weld and drill at the proposed facility, according to Rumelhart and County Commissioner Tony Berget.

Nearly 100 people applied for the jobs through Kootenai Job Service as of Monday, not including applications that were sent directly to the company.

The exact building site for the proposed facility in the district has not yet been determined, but it will be 150,000 square feet with an additional 20 acres for material storage and employee parking, according to Rumelhart. Material can be railed in and bridge parts either railed or trucked out.

The annual aggregate salary for the skilled labor jobs is expected to be $32,000 prior to benefits, Rumelhart said. The company is looking to invest $5 million and receive $10 million from an array of government sources. 

“This is a very solid company and a very solid opportunity for Libby and, really, Lincoln County, but it’s going to take a lot of work and funding.” Rumelhart said. “At least half a dozen local, state and federal funding sources are attached to this project. We’re trying to figure out who can do what right now.”

Stinger Welding president Carl Douglas owns property in the area and has told Rumelhart that he chose Libby because of its hardworking, reliable labor force. 

Douglas, Rumelhart and representatives from the city and county met Thursday in Missoula with economic development partners to discuss how to raise $10 million for the cost of the building and infrastructure.

County commissioners Berget and John Konzen and councilmember Bill Bischoff participated in learning the logistics of how Missoula was able to put together a call center that contributed 1,200 jobs to the area.

“This seems very doable at this moment,” Konzen said. “We’re excited that this is the most realistic offer we’ve had in the 10 years I’ve been doing this.”

In addition to funding, the site’s asbestos contamination is another potential stumbling block. How the Environmental Protection Agency will remove or contain the asbestos has not yet been decided, but Rumelhart is optimistic about his talks so far with the EPA.

“We met with the EPA last week in looking at all the environmental concerns associated with the property,” he said. “There doesn’t appear to be any concerns that can’t be overcome or mitigated.”

Rumelhart will speak to the Libby City Council on Monday about the new facility.