Carpenter’s 500,000-square-foot Alabama manufacturing facility, which began operations in 2014, produces high-end specialty alloy products, primarily for the aerospace and energy markets. It later expanded the Athens site to produce superalloy powders used in applications including jet engine disks and 3-D printed aircraft engine components and other products.
At Carpenter Technology’s Emerging Technology Center, which is expected to open in Tanner in about 12 months, the company will develop and implement future products “from new alloys to revolutionary 3-D printed parts,” according to CEO Tony Thene. Gov. Kay Ivey and executives of Philadelphia-based Carpenter officially announced the company’s plans to invest $52 million in the new center on Monday at the Farnborough International Airshow near London. The company said about 60 jobs will be created over the next five years. During an earnings call earlier this year, Thene said the “industry-leading” center would be focused on Carpenter’s “key growth platforms including additive manufacturing where under one roof, we will have the capability to go from powder to part.” Metal additive manufacturing has the potential to save money and time compared to conventional methods, according to the company. Tooling isn’t required and parts are produced directly from the design software.
The center will be in a renovated Building 23 at the former Delphi plant.
“A portion of the building south of Thomas Hammons Road will be renovated, which we expect to begin in the next 30-60 days,” said Carpenter spokesman Bucky Rudolph. “The new jobs … will primarily be metallurgists, additive manufacturing process engineers, production operators and support staff.”
The Limestone County Commission on Monday voted 2-1 to provide cash incentives for Carpenter, in addition to tax abatements that were previously approved.
Commission Chairman Mark Yarbrough said the addition of the center will bring the company’s investment in Limestone County to more than $600 million.
Carpenter’s 500,000-square-foot Limestone County manufacturing facility, where operations began in 2014, makes specialty alloy products, primarily for the aerospace and energy markets. The site was later expanded to produce superalloy powders used in applications including jet engine disks, 3-D printed aircraft engine components and other products.
There are currently about 220 employees, Rudolph said.
“Any time you’ve got an existing business expanding in your community, that’s a good thing,” Yarbrough said.
“Seventy-five percent of new jobs come from existing companies,” said Tom Hill, president of the Limestone County Economic Development Association.
State officials couldn’t be reached for details on the incentives provided by the state, but Hill said the project qualified for incentives under the Alabama Jobs Act.
Limestone County Commissioners Jason Black and Steve Turner voted for the county incentives agreement, while Ben Harrison voted against the measure. Commissioner Stanley Hill did not attend the meeting.
After the meeting, Harrison said his vote was consistent with his other votes opposing cash incentives for businesses.
In the agreement, the county and the Limestone County Economic Development Association each will give $25,000 to Carpenter, if the company meets certain hiring and salary benchmarks.
The agreement calls for the company to employ at least 10 full-time employees at the center no later than Jan. 1, 2020, to receive $7,500 from both the county and LCEDA. According to the agreement, the company must employ at least 30 full-time employees no later than Jan. 1, 2022, to receive another $5,000 from each entity, and must employ at least 60 full-time workers no later than Jan. 1, 2025, to receive an additional $12,500 from each entity.
The incentives are based on employees being paid an average wage of at least $33.65 an hour, not counting benefits, the agreement states.
The county’s share of the incentives would come from the general fund, County Attorney Mark Maclin said last week.
Carpenter is committed by the agreement to start phase one operations no later than Jan. 1, 2020, phase two no later than Jan. 1, 2022, and phase three no later than Jan. 1, 2025, according to the agreement.
The commission previously agreed to abate about $1.2 million in non-educational property taxes over a 10-year period and about $1 million in construction-related sales taxes for the company. That agreement shows that school systems in Limestone County would receive an estimated $950,495 in property tax revenue over the 10 years and an estimated $600,000 in sales tax revenue.
In other business, the commission:
• Approved, in a 3-0 vote, an agreement with the Alabama Department of Transportation to relocate utilities for a project to build the approaches and replace the bridge on Old Highway 20 over Limestone Creek. Of the total cost of $314,610, the county will provide $20,974, according to the agreement. The bridge, west of Greenbrier Road, has been closed since Christmas 2015, when it was damaged by flooding.
Approved, in a 3-0 vote, an application to the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs’ Community Development Block Grant Program for water infrastructure improvements in the Tanner community. The Limestone County Water and Sewer Authority is pursuing a $350,000 grant to be used for the project that’s expected to benefit about 378 Tanner residences, Tanner High School and multiple businesses, and add 11 fire hydrants in the area. No funding is required from the commission.
• Approved, in a 3-0 vote, striping on Mooresville Road from Huntsville-Brownsferry Road to U.S. 72 and resurface and stripe turn lanes at Rolling Vista Drive and Grove Hill Lane. The total cost is $46,500, with the city of Athens to pick up 50 percent of the cost, said District 2 Commissioner Steve Turner.
• Approved, in a 3-0 vote, center and edge line striping on Huntsville-Brownsferry Road from Snake Road to U.S. 31, at a cost of $24,522. District 3 Commissioner Jason Black said the striping is needed for safety reasons.