Taking a brownfield site, one that housed a former manufacturing site, and overhauling it to meet specialized production requirements is no small task. The Morristown home of Iatric Manufacturing, a new subsidiary of Rockline Industries, has achieved the feat by overhauling the 1970s facility and site located in the East Tennessee Valley Industrial Park formerly occupied by Foamex.
“It’s quite a landscape there,” General Manager Joe Molitor said during a presentation at a 2018 Morristown Utility Systems board of directors meeting.
The completed facility consists of the original classic PMV engineered building of 200,000 square feet, with a new build of 235,000, for a total of about 435,000 square feet under roof. A small section of the front area is office space; plans are to expand that area. Before moving the offices, Iatric management operated out of a temporary space in the MUS building.
“To put that into perspective, it’s just a fuzz under 10 acres of under roof; so there’s a pretty good size building there,” Molitor said.
Iatric’s parent company was founded in 1976, with headquarters established in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The company is privately held. Three facilities are located in Arkansas. A facility located in Montvale, New Jersey is the largest coffee filter manufacturer in the world, producing 64 billion units in 2017.
“Basically, if you buy a coffee filter, we made it,” Molitor said. “That’s really what the foundation of our business came from. Over the years, we built other facilities in Redich, England, the Netherlands and China.”
Once into full production, anticipated later in 2019, Iatric will produce a variety of wipes, medical and household, including products that are classified as medical devices and fall under the same guidance under which a pacemaker would be, according to Molitor.
The manufacturing facility will also need to meet strict guidelines.
“This building is one of a kind, quite frankly, in the world and certainly the United States. We think it’s a competitive edge,” Molitor said. Molitor said Rockline embarked on a journey to find the right site for its new subsidiary. “We looked at five different buildings in, generally speaking, this whole geographic area,” he said.
“We believe strongly in sustainability, not from something you publish in a paper somewhere and you hope people read, but it’s an everyday thing. This building is a great example of that. It’s registered in the state of Tennessee as a brownfield site, so we took something, rebuilt it and brought it back up.”
Once consideration was given to the Morristown brownfield site, Rockline leadership researched additional benefits the community might have to offer. They talked to local companies, the Chamber of Commerce and MUS. Then, there was the question of available workforce.
“Most communities are striving for 40 percent industrialization. That’s an earmark they are trying to achieve,” Moritor said. “Morristown is at almost at 60 percent industrialization. That tells me that in this part of the world, you take things, combine them and make stuff. We value that ability to have a manufacturing mentality, understand raw material concepts, and understand finished goods outlay.”
Rockline was impressed with logistics — for example, the proximity of I-81; and connectivity — the availability of broadband offered by the MUS telecommunications division, FiberNET.
In speaking to the MUS board members, or commission, Molitar said. “The reality is that what you guys do for us is really the underpinnings of what makes us work in a global environment. Things we make here, we ship internationally – so this is a big deal for us.”
Molitor said Iatric would build its workforce in phases, beginning with 25 workers who had been hired at the time of the MUS meeting and approximately 40 more that were expected to be hired soon after.
“Over the course of the next 24 months, it will be about 200 overall. In the next 12 months, we’ll add 100 to 125. So, when we’re done, we’ll be somewhere over 300 in about 30 months,” Molitor said.