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A year later, J-M building still empty

By Staff | May 5, 2008

More than a year after closing its doors the J-M Manufacturing plant in Winnebago still remains empty.

And, it isn’t because some local residents haven’t shown an interest in re-opening the facility.

Former plant manager Larry Sickler and a group of potential investors developed a business plan and made an offer to J-M Eagle officials to buy the building, equipment and seven parcels of property.

“We gave it our best shot. It just wasn’t going to work out. It isn’t like we didn’t try,” says Sickler.

The project hit a snag when it came time to secure funding.

Because of a weak economy, says Sickler, bankers were cautious and nervous about the proposed business venture.

“It was too much of a risk and too much to finance,” Sickler says. “I probably would have rolled the dice.”

After analyzing sales and growth potential, the group decided to withdraw their offer.

Kaushal Rao, a J-M Eagle official in New Jersey, says the plant is for sale, however, the company hasn’t advertised it much. Rao says he has received a phone call from City Administrator Jennifer Feely regarding the vacant building.

“The city wants to know how they can help market the plant. To help sell it,” says Rao

He says he plans to contact Feely soon to see what the city has in mind.

JM Eagle has not totally abandoned the property.

Records at the county treasurer’s office show the plastic pipemaker is current with the taxes. Last year, the company paid $19,406 on the seven parcels of land.

In the meantime, Sickler and two other workers are at the facility trying to sell piping product still located at the site.

“The inventory is about half of what it was when we closed,” says Sickler.

Machinery also is being prepared to be shipped out to some of the 20 plants the company owns, adds Sickler.

In addition to city and county officials inquiring about the status of the building, Sickler says occasionally a former employee will stop to talk.

“Many have gotten other jobs. But I think some miss this type of work. Some say, ‘Give me a call. I’d like to come back,'” he says.

Former employees stopping by and visiting, says Sickler, doesn’t surprise him because, in his words, “The laborforce in the area is great, and local industries should be grateful.”