Jones-Hamilton plant getting ready for production

Construction is continuing at the Jones-Hamilton chemical plant just outside of Richburg. Plant/Site Manager Will Gist estimates the plant will be in full production in July of this year.
It was about one year ago the company was given an air quality and construction permit from S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
“We are on schedule. The construction team is doing a great job. We are planning to start commissioning in May,” Gist said.
Gist explained commissioning means the construction team will turn over the plant to Jones-Hamilton and the company representatives will then test all of the equipment, cranking up power to the motors and “turning on things around the plant to make sure everything’s working as it should be.”
He added, “that doesn’t mean that we’re going to run any product, we’re just going to make sure everything is fully functional.”
Gist said the commissioning will run from mid May and will last about four to six weeks.
“We plan to be cranking up production July 1,” he said.
At capacity, there will be 20 employees on site, including Gist, who is himself a local hire.
“We’ve already hired two maintenance techs, we’ve hired about five chemical operators. The game plan is over the next three or four weeks to continue the hiring process,” Gist said.
The remaining positions hired will be the number of chemical operators needed to fill out the ranks and the material handlers (read warehouse personnel) needed.
Gist said some hiring has been done through SC Works and some has been done through classified advertising. Prospective jobseekers who would like to apply can do so through the Jones-Hamilton website or pick up an application at the main office, Gist said.
Gist next turned his attention to answering some community concerns about possible spills of the chemicals Jones-Hamilton will manufacture, due to potential accidents with the transportation system or another kind of potential accident at the plant.
He answered those community concerns by stating the Jones-Hamilton plant personnel keep safety as their Number One priority.
“Our primary product is sodium bisulfate, and sodium bisulfate is a dry acid. It needs a catalyst to activate. You can hold this product in your hand and not have to worry about it. It’s only when it mixes with a liquid that it activates. Sodium bisulfate is used to balance the pH of swimming pools, for example.
“Based on that alone, you wouldn’t have to worry about concerns over toxic gases being released into the atmosphere, in the event of a spill, for example,” he said.
“Every employee on site will be Hazmat trained and if there was an accident, we have the equipment on site to contain any chemicals and so we will be able to quickly respond if there was an issue,” Gist said.
Since their groundbreaking, Jones-Hamilton employees and their construction team have concentrated on getting the plant up and running, but J-H has made their presence known with activities such as attending the recent Chester County Chamber of Commerce banquet, talking about the Chester County School District’s Youth Apprenticeship Program with Superintendent Dr. Agnes Slayman, said Gist.
“I’m getting to know the people in the area, and I am myself a Lewisville High School grad, so I already knew quite a few people in the area,” said Gist.
“It’s hard to commit to any community activities at the moment as we’re concentrating on getting the plant up and running,” he said.
At full production levels, Gist said, the plant will operate 24/7.
“We have a warehouse packaging staff, what we call our material handlers, and the plan is initially for them to operate one eight-10 hour shift per day,” he said.
Gist said the company is continuing to fill orders, and until the Richburg plant is up and running, those orders are filled by the Jones-Hamilton plant in Walbridge, Ohio.
“As production of this plant ramps up, we will be filling those orders from local industries from here,” he said.
Gist said the Jones-Hamilton leadership is comfortable with their choice of Chester County as a place to locate their $40M plant.
“This was a great decision and everyone at Jones-Hamilton is very excited about this facility, and about having this facility in Chester County,” he said.

By Brian Garner, Staff Reporter with The News & Reporter