Kokomo welcomes porcelain maker to 6-years-vacant factory

KOKOMO, Ind. - A company that manufactures porcelain bathroom products has decided to move its business to a vacant Kokomo factory, creating nearly 150 jobs and bringing roughly $300 million to the economy in the process.

The City of Kokomo announced Tuesday Patriot Porcelain would be moving to the 6-years-vacant pottery factory on North Union Street, which used to be occupied by Gerber Sanitary Pottery. The move is slated to set up 140 new production, engineering and management jobs over the next two years.

Patriot Porcelain, LLC, manufactures sanitary products including toilets and sinks.

Taking The Place of a Company That Left

The city said the factory was closed in 2007 after the previous occupants outsourced the factory’s work to China and laid off its staff. Now, though, Patriot Porcelain is investing more than $16 million in new equipment for the operation and facility upgrades. The company also said over the next 10 years, the local economy should see a roughly $300-million boost.

“It gives me tremendous pleasure to welcome Patriot Porcelain to our community,” Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said. “This project will bring quality jobs back to the United States and the Kokomo community, and will restore new life to an existing property.”

The company plans on stamping its products with “Made in America” and says its facility and technology will allow it to provide better products at lower prices than those produced in China.

"I would call (this) a moral victory, as well," Mayor Goodnight said. "This place had sat idle for five or six years with very little activity and the fact that it's now going to have life back in it, I think it's a great statement."

Patriot Porcelain said it expects the first products to be rolling off the assembly line in seven months, with a goal to be fully operational within a year.

“This project brings significant new jobs and investment, activates a vacant space, and helps diversify our local economy,” Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance (GKEDA) President and CEO Chris Hamm said. “This is a home run project for Kokomo.”

Breathing Life Back Into an Old Factory

For 41 years, Kokomo man Terry Nay worked at Gerber Sanitary Supply, the factory's previous tenant. 

"I graded tanks, graded bowls, fit tanks," Nay said.

But six years ago, his friends lost their jobs there and Nay took an early retirement. 

"I felt real bad for the young guys, because regardless of what anybody wanted to say, we made good money, and we had a good health care package," Nay said.

Although a similar company is headed to the factory, officials said the new plant will not be a mirror image of what it once was. This time, higher-tech equipment and robots will be brought in to do some of the work.

Nay said he hopes some of his friends can get their jobs back. As as for him? He's just enjoying tending his garden.

Patriot Porcelain is not required to hire within Howard County, but the city of Kokomo has offered the company incentives if it does.

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