LANETT, Alabama – Knauf Insulation plans to double production at its Alabama plant, adding as many as 100 new workers in an expansion project that will make the Chambers County facility one of the nation’s largest insulation factories.
Knauf Insulation Senior Vice President Jon Pereira said the company selected the Lanett plant for expansion over other locations in the Shelbyville, Indiana-based company’s network. Knauf Insulation will invest more than $30 million to revitalize and upgrade the plant’s equipment, boosting output of the energy efficient material. The project should be complete by mid-2015.
The expansion represents the second investment the company has made in the Chambers County plant since spring 2013. That’s when it launched a $20 million project to resume production at the facility, which had been mothballed in 2011 due to a severe downturn in the construction industry. Today, Knauf Insulation’s Lanett facility employs 120 people and has become the Southeast’s largest insulation factory, supplying building needs throughout the region.
“Between the people of Alabama and the government of Alabama, it has been a great experience for Knauf Insulation to start up this plant,” said Aaron Wine, general manager of the Lanett plant. “That made the decision to expand it a lot easier.”
Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield said state and local officials have been working to position the 800,000-square-foot facility in Lanett as ripe for additional investment since production resumed last year. The expansion solidifies the Alabama plant’s future by raising its production capacity, he added.
“The Alabama team welcomes Knauf Insulation’s decision to expand its state-of-the-art operation in Chambers County and add 100 new jobs to its workforce there,” Secretary Canfield said. “We will continue to provide support to companies like Knauf and the communities where they operate because success benefits both sides.”
‘KNAUF’S IMPACT IS HUGE’
Knauf Insulation’s plans to expand output in Lanett and hire new workers is a boost for Chambers County, which has made a painful transition away from old-line textile and apparel jobs after being rocked by a series of plant closings in 2007 and 2008.
“The city and county leadership in our community is and will continue to be grateful for Knauf Insulation’s decision to reinvest in our community,” said Bobby Williams, chairman of the Chambers County Development Authority (CCDA). “From having the state’s highest unemployment rate of over 20 percent in 2008-2009, to now, Chambers County has worked hard to support our local existing industries.”
Chambers County’s jobless rate stood at 7.1 percent in August, reflecting the recovery that’s has taken hold as new manufacturers have located operations in the east Alabama county. The expansion at Knauf Insulation should add more vitality to the Chambers economy.
“Knauf has played a major role in our area for many years, and we remain committed to supporting Knauf and encouraging investment in our community,” CCDA Executive Director Valerie G. Gray said. “Knauf’s impact is huge now, with over 73 percent of its employment base being Chambers County residents.”
Gray said a “team approach” that unites cities, the county, schools, and utility providers with the Department of Commerce and other state agencies has made Chambers more competitive for projects like Knauf Insulation’s.
“We have realized that together we are a far more stronger rural community and can make our business environment conducive to business by utilizing this strategy,” she said.
Before making the decision to re-open the Lanett facility, Knauf Insulation officials said they considered factors including the quality of the Chambers County workforce, the availability of worker training programs, and whether state and local officials were supportive. (Knauf Insulation CEO Mark Andrews explains why the company picked Alabama for the project.)
Knauf Insulation’s Alabama plant recycles 835,000 glass bottles each day, turning those bottles into glass strands that become insulation used in buildings. The plant’s technology is so advanced that it can transform one bottle into a glass strand 3,000 miles long.
Knauf Insulation, part of the worldwide Knauf Group family of companies, operates 40 plants around the globe.