Merrillville business projects starting work
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent September 13, 2012 7:23PM
A stack of racking , which will support the solar panels, waits for installation during construction of the Ecos Energy solar farm is underway in the 8500 block area of Grand Boulevard in Merrillville, Ind. Thursday September 13, 2012. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 15, 2012 9:50AM
MERRILLVILLE — Two eagerly anticipated developments — one of which promises to bring 250 jobs to the region and one that will produce alternative energy — are under way, officials at the companies said.
Interior remodeling recently started at the new Modern Drop Forge Cos. building in the 8700 block of Colorado Street, and site preparation is under way at Ecos Energy’s solar farm just south of 8520 Grand Blvd.
Modern Forge CFO Patrick Thompson said Wednesday that construction is four to six months behind schedule, which he attributes to delays in the design process. He previously expected the company to begin hiring new employees sometime this summer.
“It has more to do with how we want to operate the plant, with the design process,” Thompson said.
“I’m not happy that we’re not further along. I wish we were four months further along,” he said.
Thompson said the company wants to make sure it gets the right bids and the right specifications.
He said excavation of the grounds is 99 percent complete, with sewer hookup the last step in that process. He said an addition to the former NSU building to create a 200,000-square-foot building should get started in late October.
Town Councilman Tom Goralczyk, D-3rd, had expressed some concern last month that the company was behind in its plans. But he said at Tuesday night’s council meeting that he talked with representatives of Modern Forge and was told the company had awarded contracts for remodeling the interior of the building.
“It’s a work in progress,” Goralczyk said.
Goralczyk said the company representative told him the company has been contacted by other Illinois businesses considering moving across the state line to Indiana and it has recommended Merrillville.
Thompson said the company recently has hired some Illinois residents, who will move to Indiana from its current Blue Island, Ill., location with the company. He expects additional hiring at the new plant will take place in late spring.
The die-forging company’s new location will include forging production lines, engineering and general offices and a die shop.
Brad Wilson, project manager for the Mendota Heights, Minn.-based Ecos Energy LLC, doing business in Merrillville as Lincoln Solar LLC, confirmed site preparation has begun at the Merrillville site.
Wilson expects the solar farm to be in full operation within three months.
“There was plenty that had to be done (before installation began),” he said.
The company plans to install more than 6,800 solar panels on the site. Those panels will be able to provide enough power for at least 200 homes. Ecos Energy and Northern Indiana Public Service Co. officials have said Ecos will sell power it generates back to the utility.
The $6 million project will generate 1.5 megawatts, Wilson said.
Wilson said site preparation work also has started on a similar project in Portage Township, but he was not sure when a solar farm approved for Hobart would begin construction.
The Portage Township solar farm will include 6,864 solar panels on 11 acres at the southwest corner of Robbins Roads and County Road 450W. It will produce 1.5 megawatts.
The Hobart site will be smaller, with 4,576 panels installed at the northwest corner of Liverpool Road and 49th Avenue. It will take up 10 acres of a 50-acre parcel.
Unlike Modern Drop Forge, Ecos Energy’s projects will only employ one person at each site permanently in addition to the jobs generated during the construction process.