When SRC Holdings decided to purchase Springfield's former Regal Beloit facility, Vice President Dick Moger said, "we originally thought this building might suffice and handle our needs for three to five years."
"As of about 10 days ago, it was full," Moger said in a recent interview. "It was closer to three to five months."
Nine months after the company's December acquisition of 2401 E. Sunshine St., the facility houses 225 employees from five of Springfield-based SRC's business units. The building's 325,000 square feet of office and manufacturing space is all currently in use, save for a few gaps on the production floor where storage racks and other equipment are slated to be hauled in during the coming weeks.
There are noticeable signs of renovation. The hedges once planted along the street have been removed, making the plant more visible to passers-by. The front facade has been redone. Inside, the former cafeteria has been converted into a large meeting space.
But the core purpose of the facility — which for a time last year appeared likely to be demolished — remains unchanged.
"In our opinion, it's nice to see manufacturing jobs back in the center of town," Moger said.
SRC's roots date to 1983, when CEO Jack Stack and other managers at a flagging International Harvester plant in Springfield purchased the facility from the company. In an effort to improve performance, they essentially opened the new company's balance sheet to employees. Today, SRC Holdings — the name stands for Springfield ReManufacturing Corporation — has about 1,600 employees across a dozen business units, and about 12 facilities across the city.
Most of the units specialize in remanufacturing, the process of making worn-down products — such as engines and electronics — operational once again. One unit, The Great Game of Business, works with other companies that want to incorporate an open-book management style.
When it opened in 1959, the East Sunshine facility manufactured typewriters for Royal McBee. The company ceased operations there 10 years later, and General Electric purchased the plant and began manufacturing motors used in heating and cooling equipment. Regal Beloit purchased that segment of GE's business in 2004 but closed the Springfield plant in early 2015, sending operations to Texas and Mexico.
Moger said SRC looked at the facility in early 2015 but held back at first, allowing another party to put the property under contract. That buyer, which explored the feasibility of demolishing the plant to build a retail center, ultimately backed out of the deal.
In conjunction with its purchase of the building, SRC suspended plans to build a facility on 59 acres at the southwest corner of Mulroy Road and Kearney Street. Moger said the effort had run into some obstacles, and the purchase was seen as a way to more quickly gain additional space.
"We couldn't have gone out and built 325,000 square feet in the time we renovated this building," Moger said. "It would've taken twice as long, if not longer."
Moger said the facility filled up quickly due to growth in SRC's business, as well as the decision to move out of another property the company was leasing.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the manufacturing sector employs about 14,600 people in the five-county Springfield area. That's down about a third from December 1999 — the sector's peak over the last quarter century — but it represents an increase of several thousand jobs from the low point in February 2010.
About 225 employees currently work in the former Regal Beloit building, Moger said. If it doesn't look particularly full to those driving by, he said, remember that GE once had more than 1,000 people driving to work at the plant.
"The one thing that we do have is plenty of parking spaces."
Want to see inside?
SRC Holdings plans to hold an open house and offer tours of its 2401 E. Sunshine St. plant on Oct. 12. The public is invited. The company plans to release more details in the coming weeks.
Source: Springfield News-Leader