HarbisonWalker to invest $25 million to restart Alabama plant with 50 workers
FAIRFIELD, Alabama — Pennsylvania-based HarbisonWalker International announced plans today to invest $25 million to convert its closed property near Birmingham into “Alabama One,” an advanced refractories manufacturing hub for steelmakers in the Southeast.
Construction on the AL 1 facility in Fairfield during the first quarter of 2022, and the 200,000-square-foot facility at 2595 Ensley-Pleasant Grove Road is expected to open before the end of the year.
“After considering several location options, we are pleased to become part of the Fairfield-Birmingham business community in Jefferson County and bring jobs to the region,” said Carol Jackson, chairman and CEO of Pittsburgh-based HarbisonWalker.
“The location is ideal for delivering refractory products and high-value services to our customers’ growing steel operations in the Southern U.S.,” Jackson added.
Refractories are ceramic materials designed to withstand extreme high temperatures — in excess of 1,000 degrees F — encountered in manufactured processes. More heat resistant than metals, refractories are used to line the hot surfaces found inside furnaces and ovens, along with other industrial settings.
HarbisonWalker expects to hire 50 highly trained technicians, including welders, electricians and mechanics, for AL 1, with recruiting efforts beginning in early 2022. AIDT, part of the Alabama Department of Commerce and the state’s primary workforce development agency, will assist with hiring.
“The fundamentals for manufacturing and distribution success remain solid in the Fairfield area of Birmingham, and that is evident by HarbisonWalker International returning to build a Southern hub for its refractory business,” said Ron Kitchens, CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance, which worked on the project.
HarbisonWalker is the largest refractory products and services supplier in the U.S., and its international network spans North America, Europe and Asia, with 16 manufacturing plants, 20 global sourcing centers, and technology centers in the U.S. and China.
The company said its new Alabama operation will produce world-class magnesia-carbon refractories specifically engineered to optimize efficiency and performance in steel-making applications like steel ladles and low-emission electric arc furnaces. Initial production will add around 15,000 metric tons annually, a figure that will double in 2023 with new equipment.
Local officials cheered HarbisonWalker’s investment plans in Fairfield and the opening of AL 1.
“Fairfield is excited to welcome to our city as a Southern hub for its operations,” Mayor Eddie Penny said. “We look forward to a continued relationship to help this global company grow.”
“We are excited to work with HarbisonWalker International to bring jobs to the Fairfield area of Jefferson Couny,” added Steve Ammons, who chairs the County Commission’s Economic Development Committee.
HarbisonWalker closed its Fairfield plant in 2019 after a decision to exit its carbon bake brick products line of business.