MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A December deadline is looming large for Procter & Gamble’s manufacturing plant in Martinsburg and officials said Wednesday construction crews are working double shifts to make it happen.
Officials from P&G conducted tours for members of the media and some government representatives to give an update on progress at the Tabler Station site.
So far, the first building, which could produce Bounce Fabric Enhancer products beginning in December, has its steel beams up and is under roof. The first piece of manufacturing equipment is set to arrive Monday. A second building, set to begin construction on Friday, will house the plant’s packaging operations.
Construction officials say crews are working two shifts a day, including Saturdays and Sundays, to meet the end-of-the-year goal for the Bounce products building.
Site work began in October of 2015. Residents have been able to catch fleeting glimpses of the site improvements between huge mounds of dirt that obscure the site from passing motorists on I-81. Construction managers say those mounds will become permanent fixtures at the property and that they are themselves engineered to be structurally sound.
Blasting at the site has become a near-daily occurrence, with state and local police creating rolling traffic blocks on the interstate near the property. Construction Manager Guy Green says heavy blasting will continue for a couple of months, with minor blasting continuing for the next year and a half.
Chief Site Construction Manager Luis Gutierrez has been with the company for decades and has traveled around the world to oversee plant construction. He said he has been at the local site for 16 months and will be here until the close of the project:
“Since we’ve moved a little over six million cubic yards of earth, it’s like having a baby; when you see a building popping up here, it’s exciting,” Gutierrez said.
Construction is set to hit a peak season in July and August when subcontractor Fluor may have as many as 1,500 construction workers on site. Gutierrez said as of this week, the site has been host to a half a million safe ‘man hours’ with no recordable incidents. He said safety is a huge priority for the plant, even in the construction phase.
According to Gutierrez, they’ve been making an effort to hire local subcontracting companies from West Virginia and Maryland as well as some regional and East Coast companies to handle blasting and pipe laying. He says bringing on local teams bring efficiency and reliability.
As for filling in those manufacturing jobs, Procter & Gamble is not wasting any time on that front either. Site Human Resources Leader Keith Busby said he’s hired 58 technicians so far and needs upwards of 130 to round out the calendar year. He said those who were hired at the standard $16 an hour rate last September have already had their first pay increase up to $17 dollars an hour.
Busby said P&G has a corporate policy of promoting from within, so it’s a good place to start for folks who want to grow with a company.
“Every single person that comes in at entry-level, at that $16 an hour, and their backgrounds and skills and experiences can help them advance at different paces through the progression and promotion process,” he said.
Busby touted the company’s relationship with Blue Ridge Community and Technical College, which could become a company-wide training site in the future.
The company may have as many as 700 employees working at the Martinsburg plant by the time it becomes fully operational in 2019.