Steelmaker Gerdau, one of the largest recyclers in North America, gets even larger following groundbreaking ceremonies Wednesday for a $20 million project that will upgrade its non-ferrous scrap separation system — while adding 30 jobs — at the company's steel mill in Jackson.
Gerdau has about 800 employees throughout the state of Tennessee, with the Jackson mill accounting for 350 of the positions.
"I look forward to our team leading this project and leading our mill into the next phase of growth," said Ricardo Anawate, vice president and general manager of the Jackson mill.
"At the Jackson mill, Gerdau recycles more than 600,000 tons of scrap steel annually, to be transformed into merchant bar finished products that include angles, channels, flats and reinforcing steel."
A large portion arrives in the form of scrap from automobiles that is then shredded in Gerdau's mega-shredder operation.
Once the vehicles are shredded, scrap steel is separated from the remaining shredded material — including non-ferrous metals such as copper, aluminum and stainless steel.
"Currently, we recover as much of the non-ferrous materials as possible to recycle and sell to other manufacturing operations," Anawate said. "But (amount) is too small to recover with our current process (and) with the addition of the new non-ferrous separation facility, we estimate we will be able to recover approximately 30 million pounds of these non-ferrous metals when the facility is fully operational."
Gerdau is partnering with Clay Williams and Associates for the civil engineering, and with H+M Construction Co. Inc. for all civil installation.
"We began Monday," said Richard Archie, senior project manager with H+M Construction Co. "We expect to have the project completed by mid-March."
The non-ferrous facility will be constructed on the west end of Gerdau's 625-acre campus, located in north Madison County.
"You have a total process area of 117,000 square feet, and about 12,000 square feet of building that goes along with that, but we have to make sure we do not interfere with their logistics," Archie said. "We'll have to shut the rail down at various times, because the building (will be) built right up against the railroad line, and we don't want someone to get hurt."
Archie said he expects inventories will stockpile before the rail line is shut down for any period of time.
"Our decision to invest $20 million to install the non-ferrous scrap separation system in Jackson is the result of careful analysis, hard work and a closeness we have with our stakeholders," said Yuan Wang, Gerdau's vice president of operations, Long Steel North American Division. "The Jackson mill represents an operation that has the type of workforce, leadership and business environment that encourages capital investments such as this.
"We would not be here today without the great relationships we have within this community."
The Jackson location, which opened in 1981 as Florida Steel, consists of 700,000 square feet, and is one of 17 mini-mill steel production and steel recycling plants that Gerdau Long Steel North America operates. It has 14 plants in the United States and three in Canada.
"We celebrate an investment of $20 million, and the addition of 30 new positions, and we are very, very appreciative," Jackson Mayor Jerry Gist said. "Along with being a good corporate citizen contributing to jobs and revenue, Gerdau and its employees continue to demonstrate strong social responsibility."
Gist said in 2014 the Jackson mill and its employees provided over $65,000 in financial and in-kind support to 40 different local charitable, community and educational organizations.
Gist also recognized Gerdau as a Partner-in-Education for the last 23 years with North Side High School.
Ironically, Gerdau's company colors — blue and gold — are the same as North Side High School.
"These are not just jobs, (Gerdau) is making an investment," said Ben Ferguson, Jackson Chamber chairman-elect. "They make investments in people, they invest in local suppliers … local companies. They make investments for the long term, and the dollars they put here, they stay here."