By Caleb Odom
For The News Courier
The Limestone County Economic Development Association’s annual meeting Thursday was highlighted by an update on the progress of Carpenter Technology’s new facility in southern Limestone County.
Carpenter Tech plant manager Ernie Jones spoke with association members about the facility’s testing lab, which opened on schedule in April.
“Everything is progressing exactly as planned,” Jones said.
Jones said Carpenter, which manufactures specialty alloys, considers the opening of the lab as the “first milestone for us as a company.”
Earlier this spring, Carpenter officials told The News Courier that the plant’s 100-ton forge, also known as a hydraulic radial press should arrive this summer from Germany and will be delivered via barge up the Tennessee River. It will be installed this fall and may start up by wintertime.
Jones said the facility is in the process of moving equipment stored in an old Delphi facility Carpenter purchased for storage. He stressed the importance of a functional lab for providing reliable products.
“Our products go through extensive testing,” he said.
Following the announcement in 2011 that Carpenter would open a plant here, officials with the company said the plant is being built in response to strong customer demand for premium alloy products, primarily in the fast-growing aerospace and energy industries.
Officials said the new facility will ultimately be capable of producing approximately 27,000 tons per year of additional premium product and will be designed with modern technology and optimum product flow to meet customer requirements for reduced lead times.
Prior to Jones’ presentation, LCEDA President Tom Hill told those in attendance he hoped the community would continue to work together to aid the county’s industrial growth.
“Our community is leading the state in developing jobs,” he said. “It takes teamwork.”
Hill said the key to economic development consists of two factors — education and jobs. For him, those two categories begin with college students.
“We need all of those students going to work,” he said.
The unemployment date was positive for Limestone County from 2012 to 2013 with the jobless number dropping from 5.4 to 5.1 percent.
“I believe the economy is picking up,” Hill said. “I hope to be standing here again next year this time saying, ‘We had another good year.’”