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Old Richmond bus plant eyed as manufacturing hub

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Richmond businessman Richard "Jeff" Jeffers said Monday he has big plans for the former Carpenter bus plant and property that sits along Interstate 70 on Richmond's far northwest side.

He's just not prepared to say what specifically those plans are.

"We're talking to some people, that's all I can say," Jeffers said. "The long-range goal is to get companies in there who are in need of the capabilities we possess, specialized metal working."

Jeffers said Monday he had purchased the former bus plant —a 529,000-square-foot manufacturing plant and 84 acres on the interstate—from First Bank Richmond in a deal that was tentatively signed Friday.

He declined to disclose the sale price but said the deal should be closed in the next few weeks.

First Bank took possession of the property from Rose City Business Park LLC in February.

The plant was formerly home to Carpenter Industries Inc., a bus-manufacturing company once owned by Indianapolis businessman Beurt SerVaas and led by his then-son-in-law Timothy Durham. SerVaas bought the company out of bankruptcy in the early 1980s and sold it in 1998.

Jeffers, who owns J.M. Hutton Stamping and is part owner of Hoosier Stamping and Envirosafe Management, said he hopes to fill the massive plant with manufacturing companies.

He said Hutton builds most of the truck cab parts for Autocar LLC, the Hagerstown truck chassis company, and said "we're hoping there will be some real possibilities to grow with Autocar."

He said he senses a resurgence of manufacturing in the U.S. and said he wants to be a part of it.

"This is exciting. I believe in Richmond, Indiana, and I can smell a change coming," Jeffers said. "Manufacturing in this country has been on the decline, but I think those days are over. Manufacturing operations are coming back.

"The big deal is that I firmly believe that Richmond, Indiana, is going to have a comeback and we want to be part of it. We want to be a part of the ones who make it happen," he said.

Tim Rogers, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corp. of Wayne County, said the property is one of the most highly visible sites in the county.

"We get a lot of inquiries about it and we've shown it quite often," Rogers said.

"I think it's great it's under Jeff's control," Rogers said. "He's a wonderful local entrepreneur who has done a lot of interesting things with his company. He's always been supportive of the EDC and supportive of this community and we're looking forward to getting that building full."

Jeffers has been in business in Richmond since 1970.

Currently, Hill's Pet Nutrition, Wayne (Smith) Dairy, C.R. England Truck Driving School and Rose City Truck Repair are located at the park.

"That's a good nucleus and it gives me a base," Jeffers said. "But that's a huge building. Still, I believe in the workforce here and I believe there are good opportunities out there. Hopefully, we will be successful."

Rose City Business Park owner Tom Dickman bought the property in 2006 for $1.5 million.

The property—minus the Rose City Shell and Rose City Quizno's—went back to the First Bank Richmond through a mutual agreement, Dickman said.

Dickman said he approached Jeffers about buying the property.

"I think it's a good thing without a doubt," Dickman said. "Jeff has the same vision I had—to create jobs and help the community grow—and has the financial ability to keep it going. I'm glad it's going to be locally owned."

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