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REGIONALREPORT Western

A salvor for Sandy

https://asoft10294.accrisoft.com/businessnc/clientuploads/Archive_Images/2013/01/western-region.gifIn early November, while watching TV reports of the damage wrought by Superstorm Sandy, Tim Ferris got a call from SMIT Salvage Americas Inc. The Houston-based contractor wanted Bostic-based Defiant Marine Inc. — a marine salvage company Ferris founded in 2010 — to send a crew to New York City to pump out the Montague Tube, which carries the subway under the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Ferris and a Defiant diver drove through the night in the company’s 38-foot recreation vehicle, outfitted to be a mobile command post. Upon arriving, they found the tube filled with water from track to ceiling — roughly 85 feet — for almost a mile.

Ferris, 36, and three of his four employees are certified deep-sea divers and trained salvors. Past missions included refloating grounded vessels off the coast of Greenland and on the Parana River in Argentina. Defiant helped remove pollutants from the water after a tanker ran aground in Italy. Typical projects last four to six months, and the company grossed $2.2 million in 2011. In addition to its employees, it hires independent contractors when needed.

SMIT tapped Defiant because clearing the tube was similar to pumping out a ship. “The subway became that same environment — stale seawater mixed with diesel fuel and rotting organic material,” Ferris says. He and three employees placed stainless-steel hydraulic pumps — capable of sucking 200,000 gallons of water an hour — at the tube’s lowest point. They moved water up to a sump where 12-inch diesel pumps pushed it into the East River. Ferris and his crew spent seven days in the tube. Metropolitan Transportation Authority workers were able to repair the line a bit at a time as the water receded.

Ferris grew up on the Connecticut side of Long Island Sound, but his parents moved the family to a farm in Bostic in the early 1990s. After high school, he trained as a diesel mechanic, then earned welding certifications before graduating from Diver’s Institute of Technology in Seattle in 2002. He spent most of the next decade working for other marine salvage companies. The farm in Bostic serves as the headquarters of not only Defiant but also Blue Ridge Distilling Co., a distillery Ferris started in 2010 that makes vodka and whiskey.

“This is certainly promising."
— Appalachian State University economist Todd Cherry on the 0.4-point rise of the Western North Carolina Economic Index in October, which is its sixth-straight increase and returns the index to its pre-recession level. ASU produces the index.

Briefs

MORGANTONSiegwerk EIC will expand its factory here, investing $3 million and adding 18 employees to its local workforce of more than 110 within three years. The company, which supplies printing ink for packaging and publications, is a subsidiary of Germany-based Siegwerk Group.

LANSING — Rosemont, Ill.-based United Chemi-Con will lay off 142 workers at its plant here, leaving it with a workforce of 115. The company, a subsidiary of Japan-based Nippon Chemi-Con, makes aluminum electrolytic capacitors.

LENOIR —  Caldwell Memorial Hospital will join Chapel Hill-based UNC Health Care System. It will receive $35 million over five years for capital improvements, and its foundation will receive $4 million. Financial difficulties of independent community hospitals prompted the agreement, the hospital reported. Current management will be retained.

WOODFIN Mills Manufacturing, which makes parachutes and other military gear, laid off 68 workers after several large contracts ended, leaving it with a workforce of about 120. Some employees could be recalled if orders improve, the company said.

HENDERSONVILLE —  Blue Ridge Community Health Services rehired CEO Jennifer Henderson only weeks after she left to be a vice president at Appalachian Regional Medical Associates in Boone. She said she had a change of heart.