BLOOMSBURG -- A business in Columbia County unveiled an $8.5 million flood protection wall Monday. Employees said work on the project started four years ago, and means job security for some 400 workers.
Workers at Kawneer in Bloomsburg said they worried the company would shut down its plant in Columbia County after the flood of 2011. Now there's a ten-foot flood wall in place, designed to protect the entire facility from future flooding and to protect jobs.
Employees at Kawneer, as well as state and local officials dedicated a flood protection wall in Bloomsburg. The ten foot high wall surrounds the company on Ferry Street.
After the flood of 2011, Kawneer looked like this. The facility that makes aluminum doors and frames was filled with 5.5 feet of water.
"It was a major, major interruption of our production process here," plant manager Axel Heinrich said.
"The water, nothing was in its place when we left. Things were just a chaotic mess," employee Jim Hause said.
It cost $8.5 million to build the flood wall. $6 million of that came from a state grant. Kawneer's parent-company, Alcoa, paid for the rest.
Many of Kawneer's customers believe the flood wall helps them, too.
"When this plant shut down it impacted the whole country of people who represent Kawneer and depend on them giving us our products," Ron Candioto of Hershocks Incorporated said.
Many of Kawneer's 400 employees said the flood wall means job security. Employees were afraid Kawneer would close its plant in Bloomsburg after the most recent flood.
"I wanted this place to be here not just for me to retire, but for many more people to retire. This is definitely the way to stay here. This flood wall means everything to the town of Bloomsburg," Hause said.
Construction on the flood wall at Kawneer started in 2009 and finished late last year. There are plans for similar flood walls at two more companies in Bloomsburg.