It’s no secret that Alexandria has experienced a lull in economy since manufacturing has moved out of the county.

To combat this issue and create new jobs, officials and residents are welcoming Airlift Services International with open arms.

ASI, currently located in Anderson at 5217 Columbus Ave., is a group of businessmen who have invented a new oil pump called “The Airlift Pumping System.” It is believed to be the first pump in the nation to successfully pump oil using compressed air. The pumping system is designed to increase profits for owners of wells by reducing maintenance costs and increasing efficiency and reduce the dependency on foreign oil by the United States.

According to Dan Roberts, president and CEO, ASI, although a start-up company, is quickly becoming successful with pumps already running in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Texas and California. With the growth, ASI has been looking for a permanent home.

“We looked at surrounding areas,” said Roberts. “Alexandria has been responsive and come forward with qualified investors. We’ve talked to others in the area, but we feel like there’s a fit in Alexandria. We’re interested in someone who wants us here, not just investors.”

Roberts also said he feels ASI will be able to ask for help more easily. “A small town is a great idea,” he said, “We can get workers and the infrastructure is here. We’re close to the interstate.”

ASI began as an incubator business at the Flagship Enterprise Center in Anderson. In 2002, the city contributed $5,000 from the food and beverage tax funds toward the company’s business plan.

When asked what this move means to Anderson, Mayor Kevin Smith said, “It demonstrates the critical need Anderson faces for flexible manufacturing space. It’s a misconception that we have a number of vacant buildings available for ventures such as Airlift. Our space in Anderson is essentially gone. During the past 12 months, new small businesses have occupied a former Remy building, old Eckrich and the former Pepsi buildings. American Way building is still available but Delco Remy’s former Plant 9 recently sold.”

The city of Anderson is currently working on investors to fill this void in space, said Smith. “It is driving us to make more business contacts with investors,” he said, adding this is a sign of a healthy Anderson. “We just need more space.”

Although ASI already has a presence in the Alexandria community, Roberts projects the company will have met investment requirements by February and will be able to move in completely soon after. ASI will be located in the 42,000-square-foot building at 122 S. Sheridan St.

ASI currently employs a staff of 11, but has a target of employing 25 by the end of the first quarter and 50 by the second.

“We’re looking at 60 people in four years,” said Roberts, adding that most jobs available will be for semi-skilled workers and installation technicians with electrical and pneumatic education.

ASI is working to generate local investors for the company. The goal is to have 35 investors put in $10,000 each to begin.

Dr. David Steele, Alexandria city councilman, said he was happy to invest. “I’ve known Dan for 30 years. I watched him progress through GM and when he called me, I knew he knew what he was talking about,” Steele said. “This is good for Alexandria. This is something this depressed county needs.”

In a few weeks, ASI and current investors plan to hold an open meeting to provide information on how local residents can be a part of this industry as well.

“We want the community to have a chance to buy the stock,” Steele said. “We want the whole community to feel they have ownership.”

Roberts attended the Alexandria City Council meeting held Tuesday to present his plans for the company’s future and received a welcomed response.

“This opens things up by creating local jobs,” said Steven Skaggs, mayor. “We definitely want (ASI) to come to our city. We need to work with them to provide incentives for them to come here and stay here.”

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