ONAWAY - Moran Iron Works has purchased the former Art Van Furniture building in downtown Onaway.
With its warehouses and large showroom floor, the building could serve as storage and more manufacturing space for the welded steel fabrication maker, Public Relations Manager Marilyn Kapp said. It also could house a welding school to train employees for Moran and other businesses in the area.
"It was a great opportunity that we didn't want to let get by, if it was affordable," she said.
Kapp wouldn't discuss the purchase price, but said Art Van was willing to negotiate when MIW laid out its vision for the property. The building sits on 31 acres currently zoned as commercial, so the company will need the city to rezone it. The Onaway Planning Commission will consider the request at its Oct. 9 meeting, and city commisioners will make the final decision at their meeting the next day.
"The community of Onaway, as you can expect, is very supportive of Moran Iron Works," she said. "We have a vision for the building, but nothing is set in stone. We'll work with the city and do what we can to create economic development in Onaway."
As the company grows from 110 employees to 200, it needs more welders who meet its high standards, Kapp said. Moran already has three qualified instructors who teach night classes accredited through Alpena Community College, and likely will need a facility in the future.
The school eventually could teach disciplines like project management, estimating and administration, Kapp said. Teachers could train employees not only for MIW but for other area business as well. There's enough room in the former furniture store to house both training and manufacturing, and Moran is considering what kind of business model the school will have.
"We feel that we have the resources here in Onaway to potentially make something like a training school, a facility available to not only ourselves but other companies in the region," she said.
Mayor Gary Wregglesworth said he's pleased to see Moran put an empty building on Onaway's main street to good use. The expansion also will bring more workers into the area, especially downtown. He plans to support the company's request to rezone the property, unless it's something "far different" than what he believes it to be.
"It's really a good thing, we're really thrilled it happened," he said. "We wish them well, and it should be a win-win for everyone."