Making America “Grate” Again
By Will Jonson
GRAPELAND – Vulcraft – a division of Nucor – is one of the largest employers in Houston County and it’s about to have an even bigger footprint. Plans are in the works to expand the Grapeland facility by adding a new manufacturing line.
The new line will manufacture metal bar grating and Joe Craig, who is leading the project and the construction build phase, explained how the product would be used.
Craig said the product is used for cat-walk flooring in areas “… like refineries, steel mills, power plants and facilities such as that. It is also used for things like sump pit covers. It’s used in a lot in walkways around rail cars, mezzanine flooring and all different types of platforms. You will even see in bigger warehouses where it’s used for storage shelves.”
“We saw it – as a company – as a great complement to the products we already offer as a Vulcraft group,” Vulcraft General Manager Chad Beard said. “It made a lot of sense that it would be a product we would include in the Vulcraft arsenal. There is some overlap with existing customers and also in general, how the business works from a fabrication standpoint. It made a lot of sense because of the synergies involved.”
As to how the project began, Vulcraft Production Manager Josh Wall said, “We started investigating the market and looking around. We started looking at different pieces of modern technology from across the country. Last year, we even took a trip to Europe to look at some of the equipment overseas. We actually started the build phase this year and we see that running through startup which is somewhere around Q1 (the first quarter) of next year.”
Questioned if the COVID-19 pandemic had affected the project’s timeframe, Wall said it had not really caused any major delays.
“Obviously, wherever you go – whether it’s to Walmart or to work – it is impacting daily life. We have been able to continue the build process and we’re still receiving equipment. So, it hasn’t impacted the overall project all that much,” he said.
Once the new facility has been completed, the production manager said there would be approximately 30 new jobs created.
“These will range from production/operation jobs to commercial and financial professionals as well. The vast majority will be operations-oriented teammates who will be working out there,” he said.
While the company is still in the process of determining the starting wages for the grating operation, Wall stressed this was yet another great opportunity for folks in the community to work for an outstanding company.
Changing gears somewhat, Beard said the land used in the construction of the facility was already owned by Nucor and played a major role in the decision-making process to locate the project in Grapeland. He further expressed this was not the first grating facility Nucor was involved with.
“We have a couple of grating operations across the country. This will be the latest and greatest, like Josh said a minute ago, with the best technology. We are looking to use the latest technology in a brand-new facility on a location that had land readily available. As Joe talked about with the product and end uses this goes into, this is a great part of the country to put up a new facility to serve that market,” Beard said.
Asked if the new employees would come from the local area or from existing operations, Wall said, “I think ideally – just as we have always done – we would like to pull from the talent in the local area. We have found great success with our joist and deck business and we want to continue that. There will be a huge emphasis to hire folks from the local communities. Now, there will be opportunities for other grating folks across the company to transfer and help us out, as well. That knowledge and experience will be helpful but, the overwhelming majority should come from the local community.”
One area that is currently being discussed at the county level – concerning the grating project – is a tax abatement.
Beard expanded on this and said, “Obviously, this is not on the property tax side – what would go to the school system. We are looking at general sales tax abatements. Really, when you look at that, it is part of the due diligence process of where to build. What is the cost structure for that part of the country or that facility? As we were evaluating as a corporation where to build this, that definitely played into the decision-making process. We kind of assumed we would get that support from the county and we’re confident we will moving forward. It really helps the cost structure and helps justify putting the project here in Grapeland.”
“I think this is exciting for everyone here,” Wall added. “It should also be exciting for everyone in the community to see a business that has been here for over 51 years continuing to grow and continuing to support the community. I want everyone to celebrate, not just specifically the teammates here in Texas, but also the folks in the community.”
Once the grating facility is up and running, there will be approximately 400 employees under the umbrella of the Vulcraft plant in Grapeland.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.