Blackmer on pace with $7M expansion, renovation project

Operating in Grand Rapids since 1925, Blackmer is a global provider of sliding vane, centrifugal, screw and regenerative turbine pump, and reciprocating gas compressor technologies for the safe transfer of liquids and gases. Courtesy Blackmer

Blackmer Inc. is making progress on a new expansion it began in August that will add 56,000 square feet of office, R&D, training and manufacturing space and is expected to create 50 jobs.

Founded in 1903 as Blackmer Pump, Power and Manufacturing by Robert M. Blackmer, who in 1899 invented the rotary or “sliding vane” pumping principle, Blackmer Inc. was acquired by the Dover Corporation in 1964 and became a founding operating company within Dover’s Pump Solutions Group (PSG) in 2008.

The company, also called PSG Grand Rapids, was originally headquartered in Petoskey but has been based at 1809 Century Ave. SW in Grand Rapids since 1925.

Today, Blackmer produces pumps and compressors used across a wide array of industrial applications.

The company this summer announced a construction and renovation plan for its existing facility, which is now underway and on track with its planned timeline.

The Blackmer plant, which earned ISO-9001 certification in 1993, currently consists of 190,000 square feet of office, machining and assembly space. The site employs about 250 people, including assemblers, machinists, material handlers, maintenance engineers and quality-control technicians.

Operations at the Blackmer facility once included a 48,000-square-foot foundry in which parts for Blackmer pumps and compressors were forged. However, over the past 20 years, the foundry became noncompetitive, so it was decommissioned in March 2020, leaving the space dormant. This prompted Blackmer and PSG management to consider new uses for the space, which led to the decision to undertake a multiyear construction and renovation project.

When completed, the project will add 56,000 square feet of new office, R&D, training and manufacturing space that will help grow the Blackmer operation and create jobs in the community.

Blackmer said it chose to expand here, instead of elsewhere across Dover’s footprint, because of West Michigan’s talent pool and Blackmer’s longtime place in the community.

“Grand Rapids has a highly proficient and dedicated workforce, which would be very difficult to replicate anywhere else,” said Bob Lauson, general manager of Blackmer for PSG Grand Rapids. “The workforce is highly skilled in designing and manufacturing rotating pumps and other equipment and is considered a center of excellence. As part of the Grand Rapids business community for 96 years, Blackmer is a longstanding member of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and considers itself a good steward for the city.”

Blackmer supports local nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity of Kent County and the Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative (ELNC), which presented the company with the Community Partner Outreach Award in 2019 in recognition for its support of families in need in the Grand Rapids area.

Project phases

Blackmer’s expansion project will take place in two phases. Phase one consists of the most intensive demolition and construction stages. Phase two will involve remodeling the plant’s existing building and training center.

Phase one kicked off with a pre-construction stage in March, with a groundbreaking in August and full occupancy of all newly constructed areas of the plant expected by December 2022. This phase also includes demolition of the old foundry from this November through January 2022, south parking lot construction from March 2022 to May 2022, and construction of a new break room and locker rooms from April 2022 to October 2022.

Phase two will involve renovating the existing building beginning in December 2022 or January 2023 and, as of now, is scheduled to conclude in June 2023.

Economic impact

Blackmer estimates the new facility, which represents over a $7 million investment from Dover and PSG, will create more than 50 jobs. This project also is expected to have a positive environmental impact by adding the most up-to-date lighting, heating, air conditioning and manufacturing systems, making it a much more energy efficient facility. Additionally, the parking lots will feature charging stations for electric cars. Blackmer said these improvements will help it meet local green space requirements and become more environmentally friendly.

Lauson added the company hopes customers will experience the difference via all the improvements.

“Taking nearly 50,000 square feet of vacant space and turning it into inhabitable space brings with it many notable benefits, all of which will be passed along to Blackmer customers,” he said. “The plant’s training center and R&D areas will double in size. More manufacturing space means more capacity to meet customer needs, with better workflow leading to better delivery lead times. All in all, the project, when completed, will better position Blackmer to remain among the world’s most respected pump companies and help introduce the company to even more potential customers, which will have long-term benefits for both it and the greater Grand Rapids community.”

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