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Huntington shop continues repair tradition at new location

Nov. 11, 2012 @ 02:28 PM

HUNTINGTON -- There's a difference between just fixing a problem and finding out its cause to make sure it doesn't come up again.

That latter is what goes on at Magnetech Industrial Services Inc., which just relocated from 7th Avenue into a newly renovated space at 501 West 8th Ave. in Huntington.

Magnetech repairs motors, generators, transmissions, circuit breakers and the like that are used in a variety of industries -- railroad, steel, paper, petrochemical, utilities and others.

"Those are the customers that always care about uptime," said Michael Moore, president and CEO of the Massillon, Ohio-based Magnetech and its holding company MISCOR. "They come to Magnetech because we fix things better than new."

If there's a failure, Magnetech's carefully trained crew is going to find out exactly what caused it.

"Our guys are looking at that failure to see if something was misaligned," said Keith Blankenship, operations manager at the shop in Huntington. "More often than not, it's not that the motor went bad -- it's a different piece of the puzzle."

Not only do they determine what it was, but they make sure customers know about how to prevent it.

That's the spirit of service that has kept the business operating in Huntington for more than 100 years.

The company's history goes back to the 1890s, when it opened as the Westinghouse Apparatus Service Center. It set up in the 1890s about where the Big Sandy Superstore Arena sits today.

After suffering tremendous damage in the 1937 flood, the business was moved to 10th Street and 7th Avenue, where it remained until it relocated this year.

In 1986, Westinghouse sold most of its U.S. Apparatus Repair Division to Eastern Electric Apparatus Repair Company, based in Atlanta. In 1990, Eastern added a 10,000-square-foot expansion, and then in 1995, it was sold to Grand Eagle Services, based in Chicago. It filed for bankruptcy in 2001. The Huntington operation was purchased by Magnetech in 2002, which has seven locations throughout the country.

It was prospering until the recession began in 2008.

"You learn during bad times how to do things differently," Moore said.

Things are turning around, and Magnetech has made money in the past seven calendar quarters, he said.

Now with a brand new facility in Huntington, it's hoping to see some growth.

The new shop allows it to work with medium voltage apparatuses, which is more than it had been able to handle in years past. It's hoping for some new and returning customers because of the new development. Medium voltage equates to 4,160 volts, and the new facility has the natural gas capacity for that.

In the past, it could repair or rewind motors that required that much voltage to operate. But it could not test them when the work was done. Now, it can do both.

"There is not a facility better than this within 200 to 300 miles," Moore said. "This shop can handle very big work."

And they have a great team doing the work, he and Blankenship said. Magnetech has 26 workers on the floor and five more in the office.

The floor work has four categories: Utility position, which is entry level; associate level, which is a technician in training; a repairer, a job title which has three levels of its own; machinists, which also has three levels; and winders.

They do work on-site and remotely. In fact, Moore said there are six Magnetech technicians in New York now, trying to help restore power following Hurricane Sandy.

It's labor, but it's not back-breaking, as the workers never lift more than 50 pounds, Blankenship said, adding they'd love to find more good people for their team.

"Our hope is to grow the business and bring on more people. We hope to add 10 or 12 people in the next year or two," Moore said.

Magnetech trains its own crew because it's such technical work, Blankenship said.

"You can learn theory, but you can't learn this job," and they work hard to find the right people, he said. They often turn out to be the people who like to rebuild an engine or take a tractor apart and put it back together, Moore said.

"We'd love to have young men and women with good mechanical aptitude who are not afraid to get dirty -- because you can always wash it off -- and who like to use their hands and their minds," Moore said. "You can make a good living doing this. ... I know with the economy, there are good people out there looking for jobs. We should be able to make this work."