JEFFERSONVILLE — Many locals never thought there would come a day when an industry giant like Jeffboat would shut its doors.
But that's exactly what happened over a year ago, when the ship and barge builder launched its 12,917th and final vessel.
“I didn’t think I would be seeing it close up, a Clark County icon like it is," Jeffersonville native Derek Cox said.
Now, Plant & Machinery, Inc. is liquidating the entire shipyard at auction on the site this week. More than 2,000 pieces of equipment and material are for sale to the public.
Cox along with dozens of others were present at the auction Wednesday morning. Not only are they there to buy the remaining equipment, but to get it for a good deal.
Drill presses were one thing pointed out by Cox that he was particularly interested in.
"I couldn’t believe there was one group [of items] that sold really cheap," he said. "It was pretty quality stuff. If you’re there at the right time, you can get a really good bargain, especially if you’re the only one interested. If you’re alone on it, they’re wanting to move it.”
Deals could also be had on large equipment like lathes, as one with an estimated worth of $6,000 sold for $750. Some long lathes sold for over $17,500, but Cox said that is still a fraction of what it could've potentially fetched.
Though Cox was there as an individual, a large portion of buyers seemed to be there on behalf of their companies to stock their machine shops on the cheap.
Among them were Donnie Douglas of Sentry Steel. Douglas agreed that prices were low for the most part, with him adding that he hoped to get a boom lift he had his eye on for a bargain.
Roughly a third of Douglas' equipment is purchased at auction, with other purchasers giving similar estimates. Buying slightly older equipment, he said, can save quite a bit of money compared to purchasing new.
“We usually don’t buy something that old as far as equipment," Douglas said. "Big equipment like boom lifts and stuff we try to keep within 10 years. They last pretty good. You've just got to be careful what you buy.”
Not all of the prospective buyers were interested in using the equipment they purchased. For some, scrapping or recycling the metal had more value.
"There was a lot of good stock material to start your own projects from if you have an eye for what you need," Cox said. "There was some potential stockpiles here and there of some heavy bulk."
Luke Franklin of Franklin Surplus said he goes to auctions like Wednesday's on a weekly basis for his business.
Though some of the equipment was going at bargain value, Franklin said scrap prices are poor right now.
“On the scrap side, it’s bringing full value of what it should bring," he said. "It’s going for market rate.”
Jeffboat's offerings, Franklin added, were a bit more extensive than the average sale. Echoing this sentiment was Beverly Setree of Advanced Grinding & Machine.
Setree said there was a high quantity of items, but quality isn't always as obvious.
“They have a lot of quantity," Setree said. "Quality is hard to tell with these types of machines. A lot of our machines are older, because we’ve bought them at auctions and rebuilt them for our own use. In an auction like this, you get what you get.”
One of Setree's friends was previously employed at Jeffboat, having retired shortly before the company ceased operations. She said she'd like to see the site go back to industrial use. With the amount of industry that has found a home elsewhere at places like River Ridge, Setree said she wouldn't be surprised if the site were developed for other uses, such as residential and commercial.
“I hope somebody else buys this space and makes use of it," she said. "It’d be nice if it went back to industry. They’ve got so much up on Highway 62 that maybe they can [develop it] here. I mean, it’s on the river."
The auction continued into Thursday.