James Hardie Building Products will invest nearly $220 million and create more than 200 jobs with a new manufacturing facility in Prattville, officials announced today.
“Welcome to what you will soon come to know as sweet home Alabama,” Gov. Kay Ivey told James Hardie officials at the announcement at the Marriott Prattville Hotel & Conference Center at Capitol Hill.
The new manufacturing facility will be constructed on a 103-acre site in Prattville’s South Industrial Park, an AdvantageSite-certified park located between U.S. Highway 82 and Autauga County Road 4.
Joe Blasko, general counsel and chief compliance officer for James Hardie Industries, said the company focused on Prattville because of its access to resources and the raw materials needed for its advanced fiber cement products. He also noted the location’s convenience to the highway system, access to its key markets and Alabama’s strong workforce.
“It came together pretty quickly,” Blasko said of the project. “It really was, as I said, a January-to-April romance. It just kept getting stronger as the weeks went by and it was a no-brainer at the end of the day.”
Blasko said the company plans to spend millions of dollars with existing suppliers or those that could build new facilities to supply the plant.
“We do anticipate having a lot of suppliers that will be providing raw materials and ancillary products to our facility and for that I think the region and the city will benefit,” he said.
Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said James Hardie is not just a building products company, it is an advanced manufacturer.
“James Hardie’s decision to locate this advanced production center in Prattville will bring high-paying jobs and new opportunities to people in the area,” he said.
“We are a tech company,” he said. “We’re not sexy like Apple, but we are a tech company. We have about 100 Ph.D.’s and advanced degreed scientists in our R&D facilities in Australia, as well as the west coast, as well as up near Chicago that are constantly advancing the product – and not just in a formulaic perspective but in the way we manufacture.
“Any time you step into our plants, it’s not a clean room like an Apple iPhone manufacturer would be, but at the end of the day it is a tech company and you’re struck by that almost immediately,” Blasko added.
Canfield said a number of public and private entities came together to recruit James Hardie to the River Region of the state.
“This project also shows how our teamwork approach to economic development leads to valuable partnerships with great companies,” he said.
The Prattville City Council and mayor of Prattville, the Autauga County Commission, the economic development arm of the Prattville Area Chamber of Commerce, utility providers such as Alabama Power, along with the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs and the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama helped in the recruitment.
Blasko said James Hardie considered Alabama for a similar plant a few years ago but ended up shelving those plans. When it was time to pursue that expansion, Alabama was back on the table.
“We were impressed by the overall engagement and ease in which we were able to get things done, which was made possible by the close partnership between James Hardie and the State of Alabama, Autauga County and the City of Prattville, and we look forward to working closely with them in the future,” James Hardie CEO Louis Gries said.
James Hardie, whose corporate roots go back more than a century, is a leading high-technology manufacturer of numerous types of fiber-cement products with a range of applications, including external siding, trim and panels as well as interior floor and tile underlay, which are sold in markets around the world under brand names such as HardiePlank, HardiePanel, HardieTrim, ColorPlus and HardieBacker.
Established in Australia in 1888 and an industry-leading manufacturer in North America since the 1990s, the company has more than 3,250 employees and generated revenue exceeding $1.9 billion in fiscal year 2017.
The Prattville plant is expected to produce up to 600 million standard feet of siding and trim annually using James Hardie’s ColorPlus technology, along with a number of the company’s other fiber-cement products.
“I believe this world-class manufacturer has picked the ideal site, and I’m committed to helping the company find long-lasting success in Prattville,” Ivey said. “This project also shows how our teamwork approach to economic development leads to valuable partnerships with great companies.”
The project is the largest industrial development in the Autauga County city since a containerboard mill now operated by International Paper opened 50 years ago, according to Amy Brabham, economic development director for the Prattville chamber.
“While we look to the past for inspiration and enjoy the accomplishments of those who came before us, the future of Prattville is being written today, not for us, but for the next partners of Prattville,” Mayor Bill Gillespie Jr. said. “Opportunities don’t just happen, they are created. As the birthplace of industry in the great state of Alabama, Daniel Pratt was the first in a long list of business leaders that created those opportunities.”
An analysis by the Alabama Department of Commerce indicates the James Hardie plant will have a significant economic impact in Prattville, which has about 34,000 residents. The plant’s jobs will pay an average wage of $25.80 per hour, and the facility’s 20-year cumulative payroll is projected to top $200 million.
Infrastructure improvements at the site are part of the project. An access road and a bridge spanning a dual rail line are being funded through local sources, and all utilities are being pulled to the site. A secondary road and a rail spur are also being added.
Autauga County Commission Chairman Jay Thompson welcomed James Hardie as the county’s newest industrial partner.
“For many years, my family has been in the building industry,” Thompson said. “As I shared with the team that visited our community during the selection phase, I have spent many days measuring, cutting and installing the premier products made by James Hardie and am now proud to be able to say the products will be made in Autauga County, providing over 200 new, high-quality jobs.”
James Hardie operates in markets around the world, and has manufacturing operations in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines.