On Wednesday morning, HarbisonWalker International cut the ribbon at the new Fulton Mines and Rotary Kiln factory after investing $1.9 million in the project.
The new 8,500-square-foot facility became operational within the past month following the four-month process of moving massive machinery parts from Pittsburgh to Fulton. HWI CEO Carol Jackson cited a two-part motive behind the move: the existing facility's capability and Fulton's rich history in clay mining and manufacturing.
"(Moving the facility to Fulton) re-enforces our commitment to the local community and our employee base here because it's such a great place to be," Jackson said.
The new facility specializes in making a powder-silica product primarily used for producing glass and other facets of the foundry industry. Additionally, HWI has invested $1 million in improved manufacturing equipment into its nearby Fulton brick plan.
The ceremony included a variety of HWI representatives, workers and local elected officials. Callaway County Western District Commissioner Roger Fischer spoke prior to the ribbon-cutting event.
"As many of you know, Fulton has a rich history in the making of firebrick. In many ways, Fulton is to the firebrick industry as Pittsburgh is to the steel industry," Fischer said.
Clay has been mined in Callaway County as far back as the early 1800s, within about 9 miles of Fulton, said Fischer, whose family has had industry ties for generations. The first fire processing plant was built in Fulton in 1827 and purchased by HWI in 1929.
"I'm getting ready to retire, so we need more young people in the industry," said Roger Stringer, maintenance rotary kiln operator at the plant. He has worked in the industry for 42 years. "They're good paying jobs with good insurance and keeping it local will help the economy in the area, which is important."
HWI has hired a dozen new employees in the past month and plans to hire two dozen more over the next 12 months. Jackson explained how proud she is of HWI, which employs approximately 70 full-time workers, for contributing more jobs to the local economy.
"Please, help spread the word," Jackson said. "Let's carry on the legacy many of your families have carried on for generations. We'd love to have hard-working folks work at our facilities."
"We are reinventing the refractory industry for the 21st century. Our team here is excited about contributing to the next 150 years of our legacy as a refractory industry leader," new HWI plant Manager Dave Keller added.