Note: This story was last updated at 6:30 p.m.
An Oak Ridge company that is considered a success story and has already expanded once in the past few years is considering expanding again, possibly investing $15-$20 million and adding 100 jobs, officials said Monday.
But Protomet, the company, is landlocked at its eight-acre site at Bethel Valley Industrial Park, so the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board will ask the U.S. Department of Energy to consider transferring or leasing up to 40 acres west of the park that could be used for the expansion.
Protomet broke ground on a $6.25 million expansion of its manufacturing facility in June 2013, allowing the company to more than double its space, consolidate operations with a Blount County facility, and expand production.
The expanded facility was expected to have more than 40,000 square feet and bring more than 30 jobs to Oak Ridge. It was the second multi-million dollar investment at the company’s Oak Ridge site.
The company now has about 60 employees, said Parker Hardy, president of the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce. It could add 100 jobs over five years, and Protomet has the potential to expand to 100,000 square feet, with a potential to do even more, Hardy said.
“That company has consistently grown,” Hardy said.
The only place for Protomet to expand is to the west, but that land, which is east of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is owned by DOE. Officials have already discussed the potential land transfer with DOE, which would rather transfer it to the IDB for development. The land is part of a larger 214-acre parcel west of Bethel Valley Industrial Park and parallel to Bethel Valley Road.
Protomet would need about 25 acres immediately and could require another 10 acres beyond that for a strategic long-term expansion, Hardy said. Another five acres is being sought for “wiggle room” for flexibility for things like roads, he said.
The IDB agreed to allow its chairman, David Wilson, to write the letter requesting the land be transferred or available for lease, with the stated goal of having the letter prepared by Tuesday, January 5.
“We will need to move very quickly,” Hardy said. The entire process could take a year, but officials hope it’s done sooner.
Established in 1997, Protomet is a precision manufacturer that works in the marine, medical, homeland security, automotive, housing and other industries. Protomet also markets its own recreational boating products under the brand PTM Edge.
The Oak Ridge City Council approved a five-year, 100 percent tax break for the last Protomet expansion in April 2013.
Protomet’s first expansion was in 2005. Between then and April 2013, the company’s sales grew by a factor of five, Protomet President Jeff Bohanan said. The company received a four-year, 100 percent tax abatement for its first expansion.
The 2013 payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, agreement applied only to new investment at the Protomet site. Plans called for another 21,000 square feet of space, an enlarged assembly area, and more space for machining tools. The expansion was also expected to allow the company to consolidate with 4FinalFinish, an aluminum finishing business that Protomet took over in 2008.
Protomet started in 1997, and among other things, it makes uranium detection devices for homeland security and mirror assemblies for tow boats.
In 2013, Bohanan said he was already considering another expansion, possibly a half-dozen years from then.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
Copyright 2015 Oak Ridge Today. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.