120 new jobs
With the unfurling of a City of Thomasville flag last Thursday, Canadian steel pipe manufacturer Lakeside Steel announced that it will open a pipe manufacturing facility here that could employ as many at 120 people and lead to another 60-80 indirect jobs.
President and CEO R.A. “Ron” Bedard said the Welland, Ontario company was going to invest $18 million in building the plant. The total investment could swell to as much as $40 million according to some reports.
The company manufactures high quality pipe and casing products that are used in drilling for oil and natural gas. The plant will manufacture 200,000 tons of tubing and pipe in sizes up to 10 3/4 inches in diameter annually.
The plant will double Lakeside’s capacity production capacity and will be a state of the art facility that company officials believe can compete with other facilities around the world.
The plant will utilize steel produced at the new Thyssen-Krupp plant at Calvert as well as at NuCor Steel in Tuscaloosa and at Severstal in Columbus, Miss. The steel will be brought into Thomasville by rail and finished pipe will be shipped out the same way as well as by ship through the Port of Mobile.
Lakeside’s Thomasville plant will be the first manufacturing spin-off industry from the TK plant in Alabama.
The pipe will be formed from flat steel and in some instances will be threaded. Some may be lined, he said.
The company looked at 40 to 50 other communities before settling on Thomasville.
“We heard similar stories at all the sites we went to, but there was an element of truth that we sensed in Thomasville, and everybody we met spoke with the same enthusiasm, the same truthfulness,” Bedard said.
The Mill will operate under the Lakeside Steel Alabama name.
In addition to the jobs at the pipe mill itself, other jobs could be coming to Thomasville. “Effective now, we’ve started recruiting businesses as support businesses for our business,” Bedard said.
“We intend to support the local economy,” Bedard said. To that end, company officials have given instructions to purchase all materials for startup from the U.S. and all consumables to be sources locally wherever possible.
“This is a testament to what you’re doing here, this is a testament to understanding that we need to take a regional approach to everything,” said Gov. Bob Riley.
“There’s something special about this area,” Riley said, “something about your leadership, your mayor, commissioners, city council...[they are] a testament to what you are doing.
“The Energizer Bunny does not hold a candle to Mayor [Sheldon] Day,” Riley said.
Neal Wade, director of the Alabama Development Office was also complimentary of local efforts, calling them a “model for economic development in small town Alabama.”
When Thomasville was deep in the effort to bring Lakeside Steel, Day indicated that the city was working on a project that he believed could reshape Thomasville.
“Economic development doesn’t just happen,” he said. “We can’t be a Tupelo [Miss.], we can’t be Mobile. We are who we are and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. We put our heart and our soul into what we do.”
He recognized Jackson Mayor Richard Long and said the two men agreed to support each other’s efforts when Lakeside first came calling to Clarke County and looked at the two cities.
The company has not announced a hiring process yet. Thomasville officials said it could be at least six months before that process would likely begin.