By Budd McLaughlin
The sun may be slowly peeking through the dark economic clouds surrounding Lawrence County in the wake of the announcement three weeks ago to close the International Paper plant in Courtland.
On Wednesday, Gov. Robert Bentley announced that IT-TRI plans to invest up to $68 million to build a steel tubing and pipe manufacturing plant in Lawrence County. IT-TRI expects to create 100 jobs in Trinity before 2016.
“… We are committed to attracting more jobs to Lawrence County and to all of Alabama,” Bentley said. “We have the best workforce of any state in the country. We have good people who are ready to work hard and help this company succeed. I appreciate the investment that IT-TRI is making in Lawrence County.”
The newest tenants of the county’s Mallard Fox West Industrial Complex basically walked into the office of the Lawrence County Industrial Development Board about a year ago.
“They came in after election day,” said Tony Stockton, executive director of the industrial board. “We don’t get too many walk-ins.
“The promise of 100 jobs is exciting and the entire county will benefit from this excellent industry locating here. Our industrial development team has worked extremely hard to make this project a reality."
Rick Werner, the president of the Chicago-based company, said IT-TRI expects to break ground soon and begin operations by the end of 2014.
“Having two raw material suppliers in Alabama, Nucor Steel in Decatur and U.S. Steel in Birmingham, and due to the growing Southern demand for pipe, the company began looking at sites in the Southeast United States for this new plant,” Werner said. “The ease of dealing with the Industrial Development Board of Lawrence County and the state of Alabama helped solidify the company’s decision to acquire 75 acres in the Mallard Fox West Industrial Complex in Lawrence County.”
The hiring process is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2014. In 2011 and 2012, more than 6,000 jobs were announced in Lawrence County and the counties surrounding it, including Colbert, Franklin, Lauderdale, Limestone, Marion, Morgan and Winston.
While it’s still not known what International Paper plans to do with its plant and property in Courtland, Stockton said the industrial board is fielding requests from various companies about sites elsewhere in the county.
“It’s a valuable piece of property,” he said of the IP site. “We’ve got some requests for information about Mallard Fox West. We’re hoping to make more announcements.”