The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

October 6, 2013

Carpenter Technology plant under budget, ahead of schedule

By Budd McLaughlin

— “Under budget and ahead of schedule”

Those words are pleasing to the ears of company executives and project managers.

And they apply to the $500 million Carpenter Technology under construction in Tanner.

“We hold ourselves accountable to meeting budget and schedule,” said Jim Seitz, the program director for Athens Operations Program.

The facility, just north of Calhoun Community College on U.S. 31, is slated to open in March and will employ about 200 people when it reaches full production, which could be about a year after that.

“We’re close to halfway there (employment),” said spokesman William J. Randolph Jr.

“The expectations are that we are on track,” Seitz said. “It’ll be a year or so after March (fully operational).

“We’re going to ramp up gradually.”

The facility’s operations will include remelting, forging and associated finishing and testing. The plant will ultimately be capable of producing approximately 27,000 tons per year of additional premium product, the company said.

Among the products is superalloy powder used in the production of aircraft engines. Carpenter recently signed a 10-year, $600 million agreement with United Technologies, through its aerospace Pratt & Whitney division, for the production of the powders.

“We are pleased with (United Technologies) agreement that will expand our supply position,” Carpenter President/CEO William A. Wulfsohn said in a statement. “This agreement, which could potentially yield in excess of $600 million in sales over the term of the agreement, reinforces our belief that the investment we are making to expand capacity with our Athens Operations (Alabama) is needed and will lead to increased customer sales.”

Carpenter supplies United Technologies’ aerospace businesses with a portion of their overall demand for nickel, stainless, and strip laminate products.

“(The agreement) covers our operations in Reading (Pa.), Latrobe (Pa.), Hartsville, S.C.; and Athens,” Seitz said. “With regards to Athens, it is expected to play a major role in that.”

Global demand for superalloy powder is expected to grow substantially as aircraft engine temperatures increase.

“This is our ultra premium product,” Seitz said of the nickel-based superalloy powder. “This plant is designed to produce it.”

He said the plant creates the powder, with the consistency of flour, by melting and atomizing the ingots. The company also is planning a $20 million facility for superalloy powder production which, after the site is decided, will take about 18 months to build.

Once the facility is qualified by Pratt & Whitney, Carpenter will supply Pratt & Whitney with superalloy powder for up to 20 years. The Tanner site is among those under consideration.

Seitz said the state and nearby Calhoun Community College have been instrumental in hiring and helping train employees.

“We have a close, working relationship with AIDT (Alabama Industrial Development Training) and its programs,” he said. “They’re helping us with the hiring process and augmenting our training process.

“We’re using some of Calhoun’s education facilities for our training.”