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April 5, 2012

Ground broken near Tanner for Carpenter Technology facility

April 2014 expected completion date

— When Dave Strobel blew an air horn Wednesday morning and moved dirt with a Caterpillar bulldozer, it signaled the beginning of construction on the new $500 million Carpenter Technology Corporation facility in Limestone County.

Strobel, who serves as Carpenter’s senior vice president of global operations, was joined at a groundbreaking ceremony at the site by dozens of officials with CTC, Turner Construction, architectural firm Barge Waggoner Sumner & Cannon and local and state economic development officials.

“We’re a very proud company with a 123-year history of steelmaking and we’re constantly looking to improve,” he said.

Construction on the 400,000-square-foot facility will begin in earnest next week, according to Mike Pace, project executive with Turner Construction. The first steel structures for the plant would be erected this fall. The scheduled completion date is April 2014.

About 800 contract workers will be hired, but as many as 6,000 will have a hand in the project’s construction as scopes of work change. Turner Construction was scheduled to host an event at Calhoun Community College today to make a presentation to invited subcontractors from the area.

John Gromos, vice president and general manager of Turner Construction in Huntsville and Nashville, said his company was thankful for CTC’s commitment to the project. He said the time between the groundbreaking and the ribbon-cutting would “go by very quickly.”

“We have been more than impressed with the quality of your people,” he said. “It won’t take long for you to call this home.”

The CTC facility will occupy about 252 acres of property, though only 100 acres would be developed. The plant, referred to as CTC’s Premium Products Focus Facility, will also be environmentally friendly.

“It will have zero landfill and we’re also looking at how we can save energy costs and energy usage,” Strobel said. “This site will house our newest technology and the largest radial forge in the world.”

The German-made forge will be delivered in three increments via the Tennessee River beginning in May 2013. Strobel called the forge the “biggest, baddest and best forge in the world.”

When the plant opens for business, operations will be overseen by vice president and general manager Ernie Jones, who plans to move his family to Limestone County. He said the facility will hire between 200 and 250 workers, though some of those will be contract positions.

CTC will work with Alabama Industrial Development Training to find prospective employees for the site, though a section is available on CTC’s website that contains applicant information.

“We’re very excited to get it up and going,” he said.

The products made at the plant will be sold to other companies for use in aircraft engines, power generation applications and medical use, including coronary stents. Jones said CTC officials had also met with Nucor in Decatur about possibly providing materials and welcomes the opportunity to work with other companies in North Alabama.

A previous groundbreaking ceremony was held in October to announce CTC’s intentions, but much has happened since then, including announcements of local and state incentives packages and the announcements of architectural and construction firms.

Tom Hill, president of the Limestone County Economic Development Association, played a large role in shoring up local and state support for incentives and brokering a land-swap agreement that provided CTC with building 23 and 29 acres at the former Delphi site. The building would be used for project offices and construction staging on the new facility.

“We’re excited to get this project moving,” he said Wednesday. “We’re just thrilled by Carpenter’s commitment to our community.”

A financial incentives package offered by the state and county was based on the company hitting specific job goals. Alabama’s package, worth $1.75 million, will be disbursed in three payments. The first two payments will come in $500,000 installments, while the final payment will be worth $750,000.

In early February, the county approved a $1 million incentives package toward CTC’s overall capital costs that will be paid in three installments of $333,333.33 over a three-year period. The county also approved a sales and property tax abatement worth $22 million.

Other incentives included:

• Signal improvements to the intersection of U.S. 31 and Thomas Hammonds Road. The agreement also calls for a widening of Thomas Hammonds Road from two lanes to three to allow for truck access;

• A $140,000 commitment from the Limestone County Water & Sewer Authority for sewer infrastructure improvements to the site;

• An incentives package from the city of Athens that includes the installation of gas pipelines and metering stations and labor. The city placed a value on the scope of work at $375,000. Work on that project has already started, according to Gas Department Manager Steve Carter. He said the project would take about three months to complete;

• Athens Utilities’ construction of a $3.5 million electrical substation to provide power to the plant. The city will credit $750,000 toward the overall cost; and

• The city’s promise of 500 square feet of office space while the site is under construction.

Mayor Ronnie Marks said landing the project was a team effort from the local and state level. In talking about the incentives offered to CTC, he said the city and county would continue to work together to lure industries through incentives.

Marks also took a moment to reflect on the April 27 tornadoes that caused widespread damage only a few miles from the CTC site. When tornadoes struck the county again on March 2, he said, one of the first offers of help to the Athens-Limestone United Way was from CTC.

“Thank you for being part of the recovery process, and thank you for being here today,” he said.

For more information on Carpenter Technology Corporation, visit http://www.cartech.com.

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