The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

April 14, 2014

Athens plant adding 11 new jobs, other projects on horizon

By Jean Cole
jean@athensnews-courier.com

ATHENS — Did you know that the sirens in most police squad cars and ambulance were made right here in Athens?

The company that makes those and many other products — Cast Products Inc. on Alabama 127 — is now planning a $1.1 million expansion that is expected to generate 11 new jobs over the next three years and more jobs beyond that, said Vice President of Operations Colby Medlen.

Medlen — the 26-year-old grandson of Cast Products founder Basil Wheeler — asked City Council members tonight to abate a total of $51,137 in property and sales tax associated with the expansion. Council members unanimously agreed.

Tonight’s meeting was filled with good economic news.

Jobs and more jobs

Officials announced that another Athens industry is also planning an $11 million expansion that would create 16 new jobs.

Tom Hill, executive director of the Limestone County Economic Development Association, said he could not disclose the name of the industry but he would seek a tax abatement for the industry at the April 28 council meeting.

A third industry — Asahi Kasei Plastics North America — is deciding whether to build a 100,000-square-foot building on a 50-acre site at Wilkinson Street and Airport Road. In March, the City Council and the Limestone County Commission approved an $800,000 land purchase option for the company.

Council members met privately before adjourning the meeting to discuss an economic development project. Mayor Ronnie Marks referred to the project only as one the city is trying to lure.

Bigger, stronger, faster

Cast Products currently employs 136 people who help make aluminum castings for emergency vehicles and other automotive applications. Medlen said the company needs to expand to improve its mold-handling line. The plant produces 150 to 180 molds per hour but its mold-handling line is inefficient and cannot keep up with the capacity of the machine, he said.

“The new line will allow us to increase our capacity of production, decrease the amount of scrap product coming out of our foundry, and open up opportunities to bring in new products and new projects, allowing us to open up several more employment opportunities at every level — engineering, sales, production,” Medlen said.

The initial 11 new jobs will include 10 in production and one in sales, he said.

“The expansion could open us up not just to 11 jobs but help us be more efficient so we can go out and, potentially, grow our foundry,” Medlen said.

Honoring grandfather

Medlen’s grandfather, who died of cancer April 5 at age 75, would be happy to see the company he built expanding.

“He was a relentless, brilliant man, businessman, engineer and salesmen all together who worked 24 hours a day to create the business,” said Medlen, who grew up around the plant and worked there in high school. “He did the research and development, the sales, the investing and obtained the patents for products that are now considered industry standards.”

In addition to sirens, the company makes ambulance door-grabbers, I.V. bag holders as well as products for boating, trucking, trailers, street lighting and other uses and sells them worldwide, Medlen said.

“We do thousands of parts and we are growing every day,” he said.

Council members agreed to abate total of $51,137 in taxes, including $32,361 in property tax over the next 10 years and $20,776 in sales tax during the construction period. The project is expected to generate a total of $41,661 in taxes for Athens City Schools over the 10-year period.