SWVA guardrail manufacturer announces $7.9M expansion
SPIG Industries to hire 113 welders, machinists
Nine months of hard work has paid off.
Since February, InvestSWVA has been working with highway guardrail manufacturer SPIG Industry LLC on its expansion plans, and on Thursday Gov. Ralph Northam announced the Washington County-based company’s plans to invest $7.9 million to expand its operations in the Bristol-Washington Industrial Park, creating 113 jobs.
Formed in 2007 by brothers Joshua and Chris Harman, SPIG Industry has been working since 2011 to develop the SGET end terminal, a safety device located at the end of guardrails that absorbs and dissipates energy created during a head-on automobile or truck crash. The product has undergone rigorous safety testing — and in crash simulations a windshield has never cracked under impact with the safety device, says Joshua Harman.
The product has already been approved in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, New Mexico, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, South America, Central America and the province of Ontario, Canada. It has not yet been approved in Virginia, but the Harman brothers say they are working diligently to get it approved here.
“The state DOTs [departments of transportation] have never seen performance like this,” says Joshua Harman of the SGET end terminals. “We revolutionized the entire process.”
Through the expansion, deemed Project Guardian, SPIG Industry plans to build three production plants and a welding shop, as well as a new rail spur line to continue development work on the SGET product. The company, which currently has a 40,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Washington County, manufactures highway guardrails and guardrail end terminals for federal and state highway contractors and installers.
Video courtesy InvestSWVA
“The continued growth of SPIG Industry demonstrates the tremendous success that a homegrown manufacturer can achieve here in Virginia,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement. “SPIG’s expanded campus in Washington County will give the company increased production capacity and strategic access to its fast-growing customer base, while providing more than 100 quality jobs to the hardworking people of Southwest Virginia. We thank SPIG for reinvesting in the commonwealth and contributing to our economic recovery amid this global health crisis.”
The company is making a comeback from a 2015 bankruptcy filing following Joshua Harman’s whistleblower complaint against Trinity Industries Inc. According to reports, Harman sued Trinity in 2012 on behalf of the government, arguing that the company’s redesigned ET-Plus model guardrail end product was unsafe, and led to accidents, some fatal. In 2017, a federal appeals court overturned the $663.4 million judgment against Trinity, according to reports.
The brothers considered Tennessee and North Carolina for the expansion, but wanted to keep the project close to home as they were both born and raised near the facility.
“We just wanted to bring the help and support our local community,” says Joshua Harman. “Logistically it made all the sense with easy access to I-81 and [Interstate] 77 not far away.”
The pay for jobs ranges based on skill sets, including welders and machinists, but starts at approximately $15 per hour, according to the company. SPIG Industry has already hired approximately 15 people as part of its expansion, with plans for about 100 more hires.
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Washington County, InvestSWVA, the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation to secure the project for Virginia. The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission approved $99,500 in Tobacco Region Opportunity Funds for the project.
SPIG Industry is also eligible to apply for the Railroad Industrial Access Program through DRPT and to receive benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone Program, administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development. The company will also receive funding and services to support employee training activities through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.