Charlotte Pipe Ushers in New Era
When Charlotte Pipe and Foundry Co. held the grand opening of its brand-new state-of-the-art foundry on October 26, dignitaries from across the county and state showed up to celebrate, and the plant itself provided the “wow factor.”
The $460 million foundry in Oakboro, North Carolina, is situated on 700 acres, and inside, the facility is the epitome of linear operations, with raw materials entering one side of the building and finished pipe and valves exiting on the other end. Each step in the process follows the next in a continuous direction—there are no “side quests” here.
“Charlotte Pipe has always been committed to investments that will benefit our associates, our customers, and our shareholders,” said Roddey Dowd, Jr., vice chairman of the company’s board of directors. “While our Uptown Charlotte location has provided stakeholders with a solid platform to deliver outstanding results, our new Oakboro foundry will allow a more efficient layout of our plant and equipment and give us the flexibility to expand to meet future needs.”
The new foundry features the latest in environmental, health and safety best practices, increased efficiencies, and flexibility for expansion.
“At its core, Charlotte Pipe has always been focused on reinvestment in our plants and our people,” said CEO Hooper Hardison. “The company is a leader in investing in a local workforce and revitalizing manufacturing in the U.S, and we also take great pride in producing products that are 100% Made in the USA. The Oakboro Foundry is one of the most technologically advanced foundries in the world and is a precursor to the future of competitive manufacturing in the U.S.”
The Charlotte Pipe Board of Directors decided in 2019 to build a new foundry in Oakboro, moving its foundry operations from uptown Charlotte, where it had been in operation for more than 100 years. Charlotte Pipe broke ground on the new facility in July 2020. At its peak of construction, the project employed close to 500 locals each day, working more than 1.2 million man hours over three years, according to Dowd.
“The project delivered a significant and much needed boost to the local economy during COVID 19 and beyond,” he said. “And it provided hundreds of jobs during a time when the construction industry was seeing steep declines in work.”
Planning for the facility involved input from Charlotte Pipe leadership, plant operations personnel, customers, and suppliers, said Bradford Muller, vice president of marketing. It also required support from the municipalities of Oakboro and surrounding areas.
Charlotte Pipe’s new plant is 35 miles away from the Clark Street foundry in uptown Charlotte, and although the areas of Oakboro and Stanly County are experiencing growth, significant infrastructure was needed for a plant of this size. Oakboro itself is a town with a population of just over 2,000, while Stanly County has about 65,000 residents. One of the reasons Charlotte Pipe was drawn to the area was a majority of its employees lived in Stanly County.
The Town of Oakboro extended water and sewer service to the plant site at a cost of about $5.6 million with help from a North Carolina Department of Commerce Industrial Development Fund grant. The North Carolina Department of Transportation made numerous improvements to the public roads and railroad crossing around the plant property at a cost of $4.9 million. The Golden LEAF Foundation provided a grant of $2.5 million to the Town of Oakboro to construct a new water tank.
Other incentives Charlotte Pipe received includes a Job Maintenance and Capital Development Fund grant to support the plant relocation from Mecklenburg to Stanly County. Approved by the North Carolina Economic Investment Committee, the company will receive up to $15 million in tax rebates over 10 years. Charlotte Pipe was also awarded a One North Carolina Fund grant for $500,000 to provide economic investment and create jobs in Stanly County.
On Charlotte Pipe’s side, the company built a 70,000-megawatt substation onsite to power the plant as part of a $58 investment in environmental systems and controls. It also added a rail spur to connect the new plant to the Aberdeen Railway, a short line railroad that crosses central North Carolina and connects to the Norfolk Southern Railway. The local Oakboro fire department will also benefit from $300,000 of Charlotte Pipe’s tax allocation.
“We’re always going to reinvest in our local communities,” Hardison said. “Whether it’s being a good local partner and steward in the communities we call home or using only the highest-quality raw materials to manufacture our products, you can count on Charlotte Pipe to invest in a manner that allows us to stay competitive over the long term and remain focused on the customers we serve.”