Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted speaking with Dayton Phoenix Group workers Friday. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF

Dayton Phoenix Group vows to ‘rise from ashes’

Manufacturer temporarily shifts work to Vandalia as it rebuilds in Dayton 

Dayton Phoenix Group is keeping all of its 300 local employees on the company payroll as it temporarily moves manufacturing operations to a former Delphi plant on Northwoods Boulevard in Vandalia.

But the company is rebuilding its tornado-damaged facility on Kuntz Road in Dayton, and work will return there, promised Gale Kooken, the company’s chief executive and founder.

“No question,” Kooken said Friday. “That was a pretty easy decision. This is home.”

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Kooken estimated that the company will be working out of the Northwoods location for about a year.

A late shift of about 13 workers was at Dayton Phoenix Group’s (DPG) 1919 Kuntz plant when a tornado ripped through North Dayton after 11 p.m. May 27. Those workers were able to retreat to a fortified safe area and ride the storm out.

“During the day, with 250 to 300 people, I’m sure it would have been a different outcome,” said Tim Gilbert DPG’s facilities manager.

Founded some 27 years ago in a former General Motors plant, the privately owned company makes sub-assemblies and critical components for railroad locomotives.

All concerned Friday emphasized that the company will live up to its namesake mythical creature.

“We’ve got plenty of ashes to rise from again,” said Gilbert, who wore a construction helmet bearing the words, “May 27, 2019 — engineered to rebuild.”

“Dayton Phoenix will rise again,” said Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, who toured the plant Friday.

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Many businesses and thousands of residents were affected by 15 confirmed tornadoes that tore through Western Ohio on Memorial Day. Gov. Mike DeWine this week appealed to President Donald Trump, declaring the disaster beyond the ability of the state and localities to handle alone.

A FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) spokeswoman told the Dayton Daily News Monday that the Trump administration would process the state’s request for help quickly.

Husted said it’s the state’s hope that FEMA and the Small Business Administration will get involved.

Referring to regulators, Husted told DPG workers, “If at any point you feel like people are not listening and responding, let us know.”

“You’ve got to give the community an A+,” said State Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Butler Twp., touring the Kuntz Road site with Husted. “They community came together. Now, you’ve got to take care of the people who are unemployed.”

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