There are no new jobs planned, but officials with SGL Carbon announced Wednesday (April 17) a $26 million upgrade to their facility in Ozark.

The German-based company employs more than 90 people in the Ozark plant, which produces high-power graphic electrodes that create heat in electric arc furnaces used in steel mills.

Work on the expansion is expected to be complete by June 2015.

“SGL Group’s significant investment in Ozark underlines our long-term commitment to this facility as well as our employees,” Scott Carlton, president of SGL Group North America, said in a statement released by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. “This investment covers new, state-of-the-art technology for the manufacture of graphite electrodes and will substantially reduce energy consumption. The Ozark facility is an integral component of SGL Group’s global network of graphite electrode production, and we look forward to future growth in the state of Arkansas.”

According to SGL, steel production in electric arc furnaces offers advantages in terms of lower investment costs, higher production flexibility and less pollution.

ADVANCED MANUFACTURING SUPPORT
Grant Tennille, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said the investment is a signal that global companies are willing to invest in advanced manufacturing operations in Arkansas.

“Arkansas’s reputation as a manufacturing hub will continue to grow as companies like SGL Carbon invest in new, advanced manufacturing technology,” Tennille said in the AEDC statement. “We appreciate the hard work of the company’s existing workforce that made today possible and thank SGL for choosing to make this significant investment in its Arkansas facility.”

SGL Carbon has 47 production sites and around 6,700 employees in Europe, North America and Asia, and a service network covering more than 100 countries, SGL Group is a company with a global presence. The company is based in Wiesbaden, Germany.

“It is great to have one of our leading local companies make such a significant investment in Franklin County,” Franklin County Judge Janet Powell said in the statement. “We look forward to continuing to help and support the company as it grows.”

SGL Carbon also operates the HITCO Carbon Composites operation in Arkadelphia, Ark. The HITCO group produces rocket nozzles, advanced composites components and other materials for the military and civil aviation industry.

FORT SMITH AREA ANNOUNCEMENTS
The SGL Carbon announcement marks the third significant economic development investment in the Fort Smith region within the past 30 days.

Officials with Atlanta-based Phoenix Metals announced March 21 plans to invest $12 million in a new 65,000-square-foot metal processing operation at Chaffee Crossing that could employ up to 40 with an average wage of $15 per hour.

On April 4, officials with Health Management Associates (HMA) announced plans to operate a regional service center in Fort Smith that will employ more than 500 with average annual salaries potentially exceeding $40,000. Those jobs are expected to be in place within 12 months.

Tim Allen, president of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the three announcements indicate that businesses are more comfortable investing in U.S. expansion projects. He said the “pipeline” of economic development projects that may locate in the Fort Smith region is now seeing those investment decisions push the projects to completion.

“I think the pipeline was starting to be filled in the past two years, and I think now we are starting to see the fruition of some of that,” Allen told The City Wire. “What I think we are seeing is that the capital is being turned loose on some of these projects and they are beginning to move forward.”

Allen said there are other jobs and investment projects nearing completion.

“We do see the potential for that, for some additional good news for the region in the next couple of months,” Allen said.

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The City Wire Staff

The City Wire Staff

The City Wire, a content partner with Talk Business & Politics, is a media company that covers business, politics and culture in the Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas regions of the state. Read online at TheCityWire.com or follow on Twitter: @TheCityWire.