“It’s awesome,” said Philomena Davis, Realtor with Crye-Leike Realty and a member of the Sunrise Rotary. “It’s amazing.”
People don’t realize nor think about what it takes to make all these appliances and products, she added.
Steve Kiebzak, senior project manager at the new manufacturing facility, greeted the Rotarians who participated in the informative visit.
“We make all premium cooking products for Whirlpool, Maytag, Kitchen Aid and Jenn Air,” Kiebzak said. “We’re moving the last stainless steel range assembly line from the old Hardwick stove plant over Christmastime.”
Massive presses, which run up and down the length of the quarter-mile long plant, are fed regularly with raw steel sheets to stamp many of the parts for appliances assembled at the factory such as wall ovens and slide-in ranges. The full contingent of appliances built at the Whirlpool operation — either at the new facility or the old site on King Edward Avenue which is still in use — also includes a variety of models of cooktops and freestanding ranges.
Kiebzak has overseen the new plant’s construction over the past year. He has worked closely with general contractor Gray Construction of Lexington, Ky. Kiebzak clearly remembers walking about 10 miles a day or more during the early days of construction.
“It’s a large expanse,” he affirmed.
The plant is almost in full production capacity and a new warehouse also will be ready soon, according to Kiebzak.
He said Whirlpool has remained committed to the environment in the new facility’s design and construction. “A lot of environmental things ...” have been considered in its development, he added.
The new plant has applied for LEED certification, with LEED parking available, as well as carpool parking and, eventually, bus service. The plant has a white roof to reflect heat. According to the Green Building Council website, LEED is an internationally recognized green building program providing builders with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. It stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. For commercial buildings and neighborhoods, to earn LEED certification, a project must satisfy all LEED prerequisites and earn a minimum 40 points on a 110-point LEED rating system scale.
No decision has been made yet about how the old Whirlpool manufacturing complex will be used. The company expects to have all of its operations and processes moved out of the King Edward Avenue site by mid-2013.
Currently, a Southside Redevelopment Task Force is working to identify possible uses for the old Whirlpool manufacturing site.
“We’re still working with the city,” Kiebzak said.
Doug Berry, vice president of economic development for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, as well as a member of Sunrise Rotary, said the Chamber has applied for a 10-year development strategy grant that might help with the disposition of the old facility.
“The building has lived out its useful life,” Berry said. “How would you feel after 100 years? You’d feel a little tired and stressed, too.”