Nearly two years after announcing Oak Ridge-based Protomet would be moving into a portion of the former Maremont building in Loudon, the company is ready to meet the community.
Thursday will be the grand opening and open house for Protomet’s $30 million, 244,000-square-foot plant.
“We’re real excited. Local officials have been extremely helpful helping get through all the hurdles,” Jeff Bohanan, Protomet founder and president, said. “It was a big project and a very challenging project, but overall it’s gone real well.”
The facility will create 200 new jobs in Loudon County once fully staffed, according to the company.
Getting fully staffed is “probably a five-year process,” Bohanan said. Currently, there are 45 people working in the new facility.
“It’s all levels,” he said. “Everything from the manufacturing associates to the plant management. That includes obviously a lot of jobs out of the manufacturing area. When we’re fully staffed we have seating for about 50 people in the office area. That includes engineers and marketing, sales and service, as well as plant management.”
County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw believes the jobs Protomet provides are the kind the county needs.
“I think it’s going to be an opportunity for several folks,” he said. “It’s going to be a good wage, a good, solid wage. … I think with the wages they’re going to pay it’s going to open up some doors for some folks to improve their wage, their household income and take another step toward something even better down the road.”
Protomet, a provider of engineering and manufacturing solutions and services, decided to expand to Loudon County in 2017 after having doubled the size of its Oak Ridge operation.
The company originally planned to build a roughly 100,000-square-foot facility before settling on the Maremont location.
“I’ve been very pleased with the support of the local officials,” Bohanan said. “They’ve been extremely helpful. And I’ve been very pleased with the folks we’ve been able to start employing in that area. There’s a lot of good folks in Loudon and I’m excited about the folks we’ll be able to hire from that area.”
Protomet received a payment in lieu of taxes agreement that will provide a 100 percent personal property tax abatement for the first five years of occupancy, which began in January, and a 50 percent abatement for years 6-10 with a personal property tax payment of $42,819.
“This is how PILOTs are supposed to work,” Jeff Harris, Loudon mayor, said. “The reason behind a PILOT is to attract businesses like this and then be able to invest in the community like they’ve done here — hire local people, increase our tax base. So this is the way PILOTs are supposed to work and I’m thankful that it came about and it worked the way that it’s supposed to. It’s good for our community. It’s good for our citizens here. It’s a win-win all the way around.”
The open house will begin at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at 2400 Maremont Parkway, Loudon.
“We really want that day to be a focus on the community,” Bohanan said. “We want them to know that we’re there for the long term and we want to invest in the community and make a positive impact in the community.
“... I think it’s a good example of a partnership between the state and local government, as well as (Tennessee Valley Authority),” he added. “Obviously, we’ve got assistance from all of those folks, but we’ve leveraged that very effectively and they’ll be able to see what has resulted by doing that.”
Bradshaw and Harris are looking forward to touring the new facility with the public.
“From everything I’ve seen just on the outside, it’s night and day,” Bradshaw said. “They’ve done a great job. Just the aesthetics are so much more pleasant. You drive by and see where there was some weeds and disarray and the building looks much better than it did just a couple years ago.”
For Harris, there is also a thrill in seeing a piece of Loudon revitalized for years to come.
“What I’m excited about and what I’ve talked to Protomet management about is I’m just excited that they took a building that has a lot of history — I worked there, family members, I know a lot of people that retired from there — but they’ve brought an old building back to life and made numerous improvements,” Harris said. “… I’ve talked to several workers now that have been hired there and work there, and they are impressed with the management and all the benefits. The work that they do is just top notch. I think that’s just very important for Loudon. To get a reputable company like Protomet is just very big for Loudon.”