Hartville business buys rail line, looking to expand and aid Portage County businesses

Renewable Lubricants Vice President Ben Garmier, left, with Jim Wahl of marketing communications, explains changes made to a rail spur, including replacing railroad ties.

The unused rail spur at 341 W. Oak St. in Kent has a new owner: Renewable Lubricants, a 30-year-old family-owned and -operated company. The purchase has the potential to benefit not only Renewable Lubricants, but Portage County businesses as well.

The Hartville-based business manufactures environmentally friendly lubricants, greases and cleaners primarily from high-oleic vegetable oils. All of its manufacturing happens in-house.

"We make racing engine oils, high-performance engine oils, diesel engine oils; we make air tool oils, industrial circulating oils and metal working fluids," said Vice President Ben Garmier, who represents the second generation of leadership at the business. The company also makes food-grade, petroleum-free lubricants for food manufacturers, Kellogg's and Donatos Pizza, for example.

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Vice President Ben Garmier, standing next to a Burro crane, says the rail line will let Renewable Lubricants buy materials at a more competitive price and in higher quantities.

The acquisition of the rail spur means Renewable Lubricants will be able to buy materials at a more competitive price and in higher quantities. However, it isn't the only one that will reap these benefits.

"The rail site in general was just a good opportunity because it's only a mile from Land O'Lakes and some other facilities up there," Garmier said. "So we're looking to pick up and help some businesses in the local Portage County area grow, whether it's bringing in plastics or vegetable oils — Land O'Lakes uses a lot of vegetable oils. They use canola and olive oil to make the soft spreading butters."

Its purchase of the rail line has already sparked interest from some area businesses, Land O'Lakes included.

Daniel Raicevich, vice president of east coast sales for Renewable Lubricants, said that at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday for the rail line, the company was approached by three representatives of area plastics companies. They were asking about using the spur for bulk storage of base materials used in plastic manufacturing.

A planned Menards manufacturing and distribution center in Ravenna may also benefit from an independently owned and operated rail line.

Behind the rail spur and across Mogadore Road are parcels of land that could be used for industrial space. Now that Renewable Lubricants has spent the money to make the rail line operational, the area is more attractive for development because a company won't have to worry about rehabilitating the rail line.

Renewable Lubricants CEO William Garmier, from left, talks with Kent interim Economic Development Director Eric Helmstedter and Mayor Jerry Fiala.

"For them, it's more options for Kent to sell that property to good industrial business that can move into there," Garmier said. "If they need to bring chemicals in, if they need to bring lumber in, if they need to bring plastic in — whatever it is, we have that ability there."

It will also allow local plastic companies to take on larger contracts, according to Raicevich.

"Because they can get in larger volumes of product, which is also going to turn more dollars, which is going to bring more dollars into the community, which in turn should create — I'll say 'should' — more jobs, which will create a little bit better tax base," Raicevich said. "The fallout from what we're doing is great, and that's why the city of Kent is on board."

Renewable Lubricants' Ben Garmier, left, vice president, and Jim Wahl, marketing communications, look inside a structure that holds three rail cars.

Contact reporter Derek Kreider at Dkreider@Gannett.com

This article originally appeared on Record-Courier: Renewable Lubricants buys Kent rail spur