Ten years after the Delphi auto parts plant in Limestone County closed, eliminating thousands of jobs, two companies are bringing industrial activity back to the site.
On Thomas Hammonds Road, across U.S. 31 from Calhoun Community College’s campus, Carpenter Technology is renovating and building out its Emerging Technology Center.
The project is expected to be completed in late fall, according to Heather Beardsley, a spokeswoman for Philadelphia-based Carpenter Technology, which announced plans for the center in July 2018.
“The facility will initially focus on additive manufacturing (AM) technology development, with future investments slated for soft magnetics among other targeted technology growth drivers,” Beardsley said in an email. AM is the process of joining materials, layer upon layer, to make objects from 3D model data.
Once complete, the facility will have 50,000 square feet of production space and space for customer meetings and other uses, she said. The project is located in the facility that now houses the company’s superalloy powders manufacturing, in what was previously Delphi's Building No. 23, on the northern end of the former Delphi site.
Carpenter also purchased the former Delphi Building No. 22. Beardsley said the building is not in use but is available for expansion.
“This project has created the short-term need for about 10 highly educated and skilled employees who are helping to set up the equipment and facility and obtain the necessary quality accreditations that will be required upon official startup of the facility,” Beardsley said.
The company plans to put $52 million into the center and estimates 60 jobs will be created over the next five years. Beardsley said the investment is a critical part of Carpenter Technology’s growth initiatives and is aligned with its business strategy of becoming a complete solutions provider in additive manufacturing.
To the south of Carpenter’s site, Claborn Manufacturing is renovating a former Delphi building on Sandy Road, and production is scheduled to start there in January, said company spokesman Kerrick Whisenant. That was the former Delphi Building No. 21, on the southern end of the Delphi property.
Claborn Manufacturing will use about 110,000 square feet of the space, and another 110,000 square feet will be leased to a tenant, Whisenant said.
The company will produce hollow-metal security doors, frames, windows and wall panels for the corrections industry, according to Whisenant.
“The project is supposed to add 50 jobs,” Whisenant said. “Hiring will be done in phases.”
So far, about five permanent employees have been hired for construction and advance manufacturing engineering, he said, and production personnel will be hired starting in December.
Whisenant said a new 7,200-square-foot addition for office space will be built on the west side of the existing building.
Tricap Development LLC and M2H2 Holdings LLC, entities owned by Mitch Claborn, the owner and CEO of Claborn Manufacturing, are expected to invest nearly $21 million in acquiring and renovating the building and buying equipment for it.
“It’s a great location,” Whisenant said.
Jason Black, the Limestone County commissioner who represents the district where the buildings are located, said the property is “on its way to being productive again.”
Carpenter Technology’s Athens campus is located on about 230 acres of the former Delphi manufacturing site. The company’s 500,000-square-foot Alabama manufacturing facility began operations in 2014, producing high-end specialty alloy products, primarily for the aerospace and energy markets.
The Athens site was later expanded to produce superalloy powders used in applications including jet engine disks and 3D printed aircraft engine components and other products, Beardsley said.
According to Beardsley, Carpenter Technology has invested more than $600 million in its Alabama operations. She said the company has worked over the years with school systems in Limestone and Morgan counties to create awareness about careers in manufacturing and to establish apprenticeship and job-shadowing programs with Calhoun Community College for skilled craft jobs such as maintenance and non-destructive testing technicians.