Nesquehoning couple with Kovatch ties purchases former KME buildings
A couple with strong ties to the Nesquehoning community are helping breathe new life into the former KME/Rev Group facility buildings on the south side of Route 54.
The site’s new owner, One Industrial Holdings LLC, announced this week the acquisition of the remaining buildings from REV Group. The buildings on the north side of Route 54 were purchased earlier this year by Reading and Northern Railroad for use by the maintenance of way department.
A purchase price was not made public.
The project is personal for partner Kathy Kovatch Reaman, the daughter of the late John “Sonny” Kovatch.
“My father, Sonny, started his business career with a one-car garage and grew his operations into multiple businesses including KME, the largest private fire apparatus manufacturer in the U.S.,” Reaman said. “Throughout his lifetime, Sonny took pride in supporting the local community through sponsorships, scholarships, and more. As a result, the community and his companies became intertwined.”
In 2016, KME was purchased by REV Group Inc. as an extension of the firetruck company. It served the country, continuing to construct fire apparatus until April 2022, when REV Group moved its operations out of state.
Following the news of the closure, the Reamans decided to fill the gap the Nesquehoning economy had with the loss of the company and family sustaining jobs.
One Industrial Holdings will utilize more than 450,000 square feet of manufacturing and office space, with the hopes of leasing out the buildings to several tenants with ties to the fire/EMS industry, as well as create a community based complex that will provide activities for residents and visitors alike.
“When we heard in September 2021 that REV Group was closing the plant, we immediately began talks to determine what we could do to help,” Reaman said. “The facility was the economic heartbeat of our area for over 70 years. This acquisition focuses on the future and what we can do to offset the job losses from the plant closure.
“My husband, Ric, and I live here with our children. We are committed to doing everything we can to ensure the area’s viability. We hope the redevelopment of this property will help create and retain good-paying jobs and the families they support.”
The first new tenant for One Industrial Holdings is Bulldog Fire and Emergency Apparatus, an established fire apparatus company that had ties to KME through the years.
Bulldog is currently leasing 120,000 square feet of space in plants 3 and 4.
In addition, the company has hired 35 former KME employees with plans of bringing back more as the business expands.
“KME is one of our oldest partnerships,” said Jeff Mazza, owner of Bulldog Fire & Emergency Apparatus. “In my 17 years with Bulldog, I visited the Nesquehoning plant many times. Each time, I was struck by the dedication and pride and quality of the KME workforce.
“Finding qualified, technically skilled people in today’s market is very challenging.”
To help Mazza in this venture, Kathy’s husband, Ric, has taken on the roll as Bulldog’s Chief Financial Officer.
Ric Reaman has a long history with the KME complex, serving as the former CFO of KME years ago.
“There were so many dedicated people whom I was fortunate to work with for almost 20 years at KME, and it’s exciting to be working with some of them again,” Ric Reaman said. “We look forward to hiring even more in the future.”
Bulldog Fire & Emergency Apparatus sells new emergency vehicles and provides after-sale support for KME, Ferrara, Fouts Bros., and Ward fire apparatus, as well as Demers, Braun, Crestline, and Osage ambulances.
In addition, Bulldog specializes in refurbishment and manufacturing its own line of specialty fire vehicles.
“Our expansion into the facility at One Industrial Complex helps address these issues,” Mazza said. “This location will be Bulldog’s dedicated refurbishment center. We plan to transition all of our aerial truck refurbishment, chassis-off restorations, and upfitting to Nesquehoning. This will free up service space in the service bays at our four existing locations, allowing us to take on more projects and deliver results daily to our customers faster. And, who better to complete the work than the same people who built it?
“ ... Leveraging KME’s workforce, we can hit the ground running. They know how to build fire trucks and can make things from scratch, like wire harnesses. Combining their expertise with plant, tools, and equipment will allow us to restore more fire apparatus to like-new condition than ever before. Moreover, we will have the capacity to take on additional specialty truck projects that other OEMs cannot. It’s a win-win for us. We genuinely look forward to working with the Nesquehoning community to better serve first responders nationwide.”
Carbon County Commissioners’ Chairman Wayne Nothstein, who is also a volunteer firefighter, was happy to hear that fire apparatus maintenance and jobs will continue in Nesquehoning.
“I am elated to hear such an aggressive plan at the former KME property in Nesquehoning,” he said. “Knowing Kathy Kovatch Reaman has a special place in her heart to rebuild an empire for the Kovatch family.
“The fact that they recognize the valued employee workforce at KME from Carbon County and the surrounding area, they are to be commended for their efforts to diversify and provide other opportunities to the area. I wish them great success.”
John McArdle, fire chief for Nesquehoning Hose Company No. 1 and president of the Carbon County Fire Chiefs Association, echoed Nothstein’s thoughts.
“What great news it is to have the announcement of Bulldog Fire & Emergency Apparatus in Nesquehoning and also for the fire service in Carbon County,” McArdle said. “This will help fill a void left by the departure of the REV Group. As a fire chief, it is always a worry when a piece of fire equipment breaks down or is damaged and needs to be repaired. We have a reliable mobile service available but for major repairs, collision repairs or refurbishing, it will be welcomed news to have the services available right here in Nesquehoning again.
“The community was dealt a hard economic blow with the loss of the KME workforce, hopefully Bulldog Fire & Emergency Service and One Industrial Holdings LLC will continue to grow and blossom in the community.”
While Bulldog is the first in One Industrial Holdings new space, Kathy Reaman said plans are already in motion for 130,000-square-foot indoor sports complex in buildings 1 and 2.
“Our goal with the sports complex is providing unique opportunities to keep people healthy and active and provide an additional economic driver for the future success of our area,” she said, noting that they are envisioning space for soccer, basketball, pickle ball, an indoor walking track and more.
Renovations are expected to begin in 2023.