Donald Klinepeter is one of the most sought-after managers at Powell Rogers & Speaks Inc., a collection agency based in northern Dauphin County. And for good reason. His employees might travel abroad, carry guns and stage mock attacks on nuclear power plants.
After a long career in law enforcement and nuclear-plant security, including 21 years at Three Mile Island, Klinepeter joined Powell Rogers last fall as head of the agency’s newest division, Powell Investigations. “Half my staff wants to join that department,” said Gene Powell, president of Powell Rogers.
The new division is part of a larger expansion for Powell Rogers, founded in 1990. The growth includes construction of new, larger offices inside an old factory building on the northern edge of Halifax Borough, along the Susquehanna River.
On a wall facing the road, 2-foot-high red cursive writing reads “Willits,” the name of the shoe manufacturer that used to operate the 58,000-square-foot factory. Willits Shoe Co. still maintains an office and a warehouse at the site under a lease with Powell Rogers. The other tenant is Virginia Lee Embroidery Inc., a small contract embroiderer founded in 1999.
Initially, Powell Rogers had looked at buying another former shoe factory, the Johnson Baillee plant on the edge of Millersburg. The building is in a Keystone Opportunity Zone, meaning that anyone who moves into or invests in the site pays no state or local taxes until 2014.
However, DS Marketing ultimately bought that building last summer.
Renovation of the Halifax building began in early February and is expected to be completed by April. The estimated cost is $3 million, with funding from both public and private sources.
Powell Rogers employs about 50 people and sells collections services to businesses and local governments. The new investigations division will screen employees, collect on large accounts and audit corporate security, for example, by testing guards at nuclear plants. Powell declined to reveal overall revenue.
If it takes off, Powell said, the new department eventually may move to a site south of Halifax, where Powell Rogers owns 7 acres along Peters Mountain Road. A sign proclaims the empty lot as the “New Millennium Home of Powell Rogers & Speaks.”
The company’s new millennium home could have been Idaho or Iowa. Both states were aggressively recruiting the company, offering tax incentives and buildings that were immediately available for use, Powell said. But last year, after securing funding from the Pennsylvania government and Mid Penn Bank, Powell Rogers decided to stay put.
The Millersburg-based bank is lending the company about $500,000, Powell said. The state is providing $1.1 million in funding, including loans from the Machinery and Equipment Loan Fund and the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority.
Powell Rogers expects to fill its new office with more than 200 people. The company draws from a rural population that traditionally has depended on farms and factories for employment. With factories closed, many residents commute to office jobs in Harrisburg.
To attract workers, Powell Rogers’ new building will have a day care center and a cafeteria. The potential excitement is what will attract others.
Tim Rudisill, 38, lives in Elizabethville and works part time in collections at Powell Rogers. He also has a full-time job at a Supervalu supermarket near Harrisburg Area Community College in Harrisburg.
When Powell Rogers begins hiring, Rudisill hopes to land a full-time job and end his long commute to the south. Rudisill already has a position in mind, with Powell Investigations. Armed with a permit to carry a concealed weapon, he is now studying at HACC to earn a state certificate that would allow him to carry a gun or other lethal weapon on the job.
Klinepeter, the head of Powell Investigations and former TMI security director, said he would hire from inside Powell Rogers. But he also wanted to hire outsiders with experience in the business.