HarbisonWalker International (HWI) will invest approximately $25 million to convert its closed property in Fairfield, AL into Alabama One (AL1), a manufacturing, service, and distribution hub for steel customers in the southern U.S. Construction will begin in early 2022, and the 200,000-square-foot facility is expected to open before the end of the year. HWI is the largest supplier of refractory products and services in North America.
“After considering several location options, we are pleased to become a part of the Fairfield – Birmingham business community in Jefferson County again and bring jobs to the region,” said Carol Jackson, Chairman and CEO, HWI. “The location is ideal for delivering quality refractory products and high-value services to our customers’ growing steel operations in the southern U.S.”
The company plans to hire 50 highly trained technicians and staff in a team-based environment at the plant. HWI will begin recruiting qualified employees for anticipated positions in early 2022 and provide training as needed. HWI will encourage local applicants through job fairs and other recruiting efforts, including working with Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT) to hire and train new employees.
“We are excited to work with HarbisonWalker International to bring jobs to the Fairfield area of Jefferson County,” said Jefferson County Commissioner Steve Ammons, who chairs the commission’s Economic Development Committee. “Providing more and better opportunities for our citizens is our goal in working with companies and municipalities.”
HWI’s proposed new plant will produce world-class magnesia-carbon brick refractories specifically engineered to maximize efficiency and performance in critical steel-making applications like steel ladles and low-emission electric arc furnaces (EAFs). Initially, production will add approximately 15,000 metric tons annually and ultimately up to 30,000 metric tons as additional equipment is added by 2023.
AL1 will become one of HWI’s most technologically advanced and modernized facilities and contribute to HWI’s environmental and sustainability goals through energy-efficient operations. It will feature a high degree of robotics automation and technology and utilize lean techniques throughout its processes. HWI is committed to environmental sustainability and working toward carbon-neutral operations.
“The fundamentals for manufacturing and distribution success remain solid in the Fairfield area of Birmingham, and that’s 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 with the company on this project. “Our distribution network and workforce are strong and will support future opportunities for this global company to grow.”
The proposed new AL1 facility reflects HWI’s continued commitment to support its steel customers’ investments by boosting production capabilities, enhancing product quality and innovations, and upgrading facilities. During the past several years, the company has invested in its Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Georgia, and Ontario facilities, which also produce products used in steelmaking.
In 2019, HWI’s closure of its Fairfield plant was in direct response to the company’s entrepreneurial business decision to exit its Carbon Bake brick products line of business due to the decline of the aluminum carbon bake market in North America and increasing product production costs.