Protomet Corporation evaluated a site in south Oak Ridge for a $30 million, 200-job expansion, but the company will expand in Loudon County instead, officials said Tuesday.
The good news for Oak Ridge: The current operations will remain here. And all Protomet operations will still be in East Tennessee, said Jeff Bohanan, the company’s founder and chief executive officer.
Protomet had announced in early 2017 that it needed more manufacturing space to add new production capabilities and increase the company’s output.
The initial plan was to expand with a 100,000-square-foot building on the west side of the existing facility on Larson Drive in Bethel Valley Industrial Park in south Oak Ridge. Protomet acquired a 19.7-acre parcel next to its current facility from the U.S. Department of Energy, with the purchase going through the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board.
Protomet immediately began testing that site, spending about $60,000 on architectural and engineering fees, Bohanan said Tuesday. The idea was to add the new building at the same location as the current one.
But, “at the end of the evaluation, it was clear we could not do the expansion the way it was designed on that land,” Bohanan said.
He said there was quite a bit of excavation and dirt moving to do at that site to bring it to the same elevation as the current building and parking lot, and construction costs had gone up. The project would have been about 50 percent over budget, Bohanan said.
So on Monday evening, Protomet signed a lease on a 244,000-square-foot building off Interstate 75 in Loudon County. It’s the former Maremont facility, which has been vacant for several years and was once used for exhaust manufacturing, Bohanan said. The building has about twice as much space as Protomet needed, and it “allows the company to continue its rapid rate of growth,” a press release said. It’s also centrally and conveniently located, and it’s about 30-35 minutes away from Oak Ridge.
The company, which currently has 110 employees, said it had evaluated properties inside and outside Tennessee during the past year.
“Even though our plan had been to have a single campus in Anderson County, this was a fantastic option for our company, and it allows Protomet to remain entirely in East Tennessee,” Bohanan said. “We will now have facilities in Anderson and Loudon countiesâ€”and land next to our current location that will allow for future growth when we need it. It’s a win for everyone involved.”
Protomet was founded 20 years ago in Oak Ridge. The company said it has recently grown more than 20 percent each year. It worked for more than a year with the Tennessee Department of Economic Development, the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board, and the Loudon County Economic Development Agency to make the $30 million expansion a reality, the press release said.
“Protomet has been one of Tennessee’s leading growth companies during the past several years, and I’m pleased to see it expand further with this operation in Loudon,” Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam said in the press release. “East Tennessee’s advanced manufacturing and engineering base continues to grow considerably, and the creation of 200 new jobs by Protomet brings us closer to making Tennessee the number one location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs.”
Protomet more than doubled the size of its Oak Ridge operations four years ago when the company opened a $10 million plant expansion that included 22,000 square feet of new space and high-tech automated manufacturing equipment from around the world.
Protomet provides engineering and manufacturing solutions and services. Besides design services, it provides high-precision production manufacturing and finishing for clients in a variety of markets that include marine/boating, automotive, homeland security, industrial, energy, and power, the press release said. Protomet has also introduced a proprietary line of products marketed under the PTM Edge Watersports brand that makes and markets boating mirrors and wakeboard tower components for boats.
The Protomet family of companies has been named one of Tennessee’s “Fast 50,” which includes the state’s fastest growing companies, the press release said.
See previous Protomet stories here.
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