With the receipt of the money from the lease rights, we began the new grinding room project at the end of 2011. The new grinding room opened in March 2012 and from the first day, was a huge success, using some new technology and new equipment to allow us to grind more efficiently and consistently, with better costs and much less maintenance. The Chesapeake funds allowed us to spend over $7 million to improve areas at the plant during 2012, 2013 and 2014, beginning with the new grinding room. John III negotiated the Chesapeake deal. In one day, he made more money for Whitacre Greer than 96 years of profits from making clay products.

In addition to plant improvements, the Chesapeake funds also allowed us to clean up some of the past financial items that remained on our balance sheet. We terminated the two defined benefit pension plans that remained open although he had stopped any benefit accumulation in 1990 when we started our 401(k). Additionally, we retired the preferred shares, which had plagued us for years with the mandatory accrued dividend each year.

In 2013, we began to plan seriously for the next phase of our modernization – the renovation of the Swindell kiln. The original plan was to do the physical renovation at the end of 2014 in the the first quarter of 2015; however, the project financing was withdrawn before we could get started. We began to search for other financing avenues at the end of 2014 and in 2015, accepted an offer from Westfield Bank, in conjunction with the SBA 504 loan program. The renovation will begin in October 2015, to be completed in March 2016.

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