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Sprawling building gets new life as a plant to retread tires

Posted By: The Blade on October 18, 2022.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.


They call him “Coach.”

Jim Jones, co-founder of a 19-year-old business called JAM Fleet Service, prefers that title and not because he once coached Sylvania Northview High School’s varsity wrestling team.

He’s an unconventional owner of an unconventional business who wants his 180 employees to think of him as a leader but not a president, chief executive officer, or general manager.

He wants them to buy into the concept of teamwork.

One sign of loyalty: Bill Austin was on the job again Monday, operating a forklift as part of his shipping and receiving duties. He was the first employee the company hired when it was formed 19 years ago.

The tire retread and fleet service business has put $4 million into renovating the former P&J Industries building at Lewis Avenue and Laskey Road in West Toledo that it acquired from the Lucas County Land Bank in 2021 for $20,000.

The building, located on a sprawling, nine-acre site, has had multiple other industrial uses over the years, but had sat vacant for more than a decade.

On Monday, it hosted several visitors and gave a tour of the facility to show off many of the building improvements that have occurred since then, and where more are on the way.

The work includes $2.8 million in energy-saving building improvements made possible by Ohio Air Quality Development Authority. Those range from solar panels to LED lighting fixtures to more-efficient insulation and ventilation.

Mr. Jones said the building will eventually produce all of the power it needs from the solar panels.

The state agency said the project “is a catalyst of economic growth, creating and sustaining 200 jobs in the Toledo community.”

Gabe Lorenz, OAQDA customer service coordinator, told Mr. Jones during the ribbon-cutting that the project furthers the mission of what that agency is trying to do. He also presented Mr. Jones with a proclamation signed by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted.

The ribbon-cutting was also attended by representatives of Signature Bank and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, which supported bond financing.

Josh Strickland, the port authority’s PACE administrator, told Mr. Jones the project was a ‘great opportunity to partner” with others on a major project that will benefit West Toledo.

Also making brief remarks and participating in the ribbon-cutting was Toledo Councilwoman Theresa K. Morris, who represents District 6. The building is in that district.

For his part, Mr. Jones joked about the monumental task the company undertook in acquiring that long-vacant building and giving it new life.

“On my tombstone, I’m going to write ‘It was the Lewis project that did it,’” he said.

Mr. Jones also joked about how the building was so dilapidated when the company acquired it that rain literally fell through a hole in the ceiling and onto the head of Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz during a visit he made there about a year ago. Since then, one of the major improvements has been a new roof.

The JAM part of JAM Fleet refers to the first names of Mr. Jones and the other co-founder, Mark Krebs, who retired in 2020. Mr. Jones said he is the majority stock owner.

When JAM Fleet Service went into business on Sept. 3, 2003, it operated out of a single trailer on a dirt lot.

It has gone from four employees in Northwood to 180 at 15 sites in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana. It also has partnered with the Best-One network, which has more than 250 locations nationwide, according to the company website.

About 75 people will eventually work at the new building, including 50 who were not previously employed elsewhere by the company.

As he gave a tour to visitors after Monday’s ribbon-cutting, Mr. Jones said the company retreads tires of all sizes. The vast majority of its business, though, is for tires that go on tractor-trailers and other large vehicles.

He said it’s found a strong market for them. The West Toledo plant rebuilt 1,026 tires last week, and eventually expects to rebuild 1,500 a week, or about 70,000 a year. Deliveries go as far away as Traverse City, Mich. and Alpena, Mich., he said.

“The retreading industry has gone crazy,” Mr. Jones said.

The company also has a tire retreading plant that opened on Stickney Avenue in 2019, but doesn’t produce as many tires there.

The land bank acquired the tax delinquent property along Lewis in 2019 before it went up for auction through the county’s annual forfeited land sale. After marketing the property and undertaking an environmental cleanup, the land bank sold it to JAM in August 2021.

Other support came from the city of Toledo, in the form of a Community Reinvestment Area designation and Toledo Expansion Incentive for the project.

The city’s CRA program works to promote investment in properties in neighborhoods that have experienced decline because of disinvestment.

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