It’s taken longer than anticipated, but plans apparently are still in the works to revitalize the former Kokomo Pottery facility.
When it originally was announced in late 2017 that a partnership between Briggs Plumbing Products and Laurcon Capital LP would result in the reopening of the former Kokomo Sanitary Pottery factory, which in its latest iteration existed as Patriot Porcelain, it initially was projected to reopen in spring 2018. That deadline came and went, but according to those tied to the project, the aim remains to spin the factory back up to speed, creating as many as 280 jobs within about two years.
“We think Kokomo is a great place to do something like this … For Kokomo, this is a legacy thing,” said Robert Easter, manager of corporate assets for Laurcon Capital. “Potteries have always been there. There used to be 70 potteries in the United States, and now this will be the eighth pottery that’s in existence and probably the only one that’s tried to come back from closure in the last 50 years. Everything that has been closed, shut down, and never came back. The fact that we’re even talking about it even is a miracle.”
In 2014, production was relaunched at the former Kokomo Sanitary Pottery under the flag of Patriot Porcelain. Prior to that, the facility had been closed for six years. But, in late 2015 Patriot Porcelain closed for what was supposed to be a few weeks after a kiln went down. However, it never reopened. In 2017, it was announced that the facility would reopen again as Coast OEM under the partnership between Briggs and Laurcon, with the goal being to operate the facility as a distribution center and manufacturing plant for sanitary wares and internal trim fittings.
To this point the project isn’t up to full production, according to Easter. He said a “small, scalable staff” of about 30 is working out of the plant right now with some products beings sold. According to Easter, all of the equipment in the factory has been “verified and tested for production readiness.”
“Really, we didn’t close … on all the assets until March of 2018,” said Easter. “Really, summer of 2017 was more of a due diligence period. As the timeline goes, we have had to take the time to rebuild everything from equipment to re-inspecting the kiln to the process and the flow of how production is measured and then also some additional equipment. Those were all very time-consuming steps.”
He also noted that litigation has been ongoing with the former operators of the facility when it existed as Patriot Porcelain, but Easter said he expected that matter to be resolved within “the coming months.”
“It’s not going to be a deal-killer, but we will have to come to some sort of meeting of the minds,” said Easter. “That was part of the messiness, unfortunately. We probably should have waited for this to hit the auction steps, but there was some critical work that had to be done to transition this to the factory it will be someday.”
At this stage, Easter said the goal was to be in full production by mid-2021.
“We have a two-phased approach,” said Easter. “The second phase would be expansion of the current footprint. First phase, about 140 jobs. The second phase would almost double that. We feel like we can accomplish all of that inside of 48 months from now.”
The facility is located at 2500 N. Union St.