MILTON - The wail of train whistles blared behind ACF Industries, 417 N. Arch St. Wednesday afternoon, as about 100 workers in blue hard hats listened to Gov. Tom Corbett commemorate the re-opening of the rail car manufacturing plant after being closed since 2009.
When business slowed there four years ago, more than 200 employees were forced to find other work as the factory was shuttered.
Now, many of those workers are back, and the company eventually will seek to hire about 100 more, according to ACF officials.
Gov. Tom Corbett, center, talks with company officials from ACF Industries after taking a tour of the company. ACF makes rail tank cars that are used to haul crude oil to refineries across the country. The company also plans to produce stationary propane tanks at the facility by the end of the year. Corbett credited the company’s rebirth to increased demand for energy in Pennsylvania and across the country.
Corbett said it was the push for more domestic energy sources that has let to the manufacturing facility's rebirth. The company now makes rail tank cars that are used in the Dakotas and Canada to transport crude oil to refineries across the country.
ACF also is planning to manufacture stationary propane tanks by the end of the year, according to the Governor's Action Team, which assists companies that seek to locate or expand within the state.
"You are part of the piece of the puzzle of how we make this country energy independent of the Mideast," he told workers.
The governor said it is business opportunities like these that seize onto energy production that help achieve energy independence. State officials credited the growth of the energy industry for creating demand for the types of rail tank cars that ACF produces.
"That's where we're going in this country and where we're going in this state," he said. "What you're doing is helping to grow the economy."
The plant has here has survived two world wars, a depression and the most recent recession, Corbett said.
"I hope you never see a work closure at this plant again," he said.
The state provided $483,000 for machinery, equipment and employee training to get the plant back in business.
James E. Bowles, president and CEO of ACF, which is headquartered in St. Charles, Mo., said he learned long ago not to bet against Pennsylvania.
Bowles, a native West Virginian and West Virginia University graduate, said he had a long-standing bet with a friend against Penn State University when WVU played the Nittany Lions in football.
He lost all but twice in 25 years, he said.
"There were, and there are, a lot of people that said we would never make another car in this plant," he said. "They lost that bet. There are people now that are betting that we won't be successful with the restart of this Milton plant. I would only have a few words to say to those people, and that is: "I learned my lesson about betting against Pennsylvania boys."