Eye on expansion

Source: Exchange Magazine | Photo: Dean Dixon | Text: Michael Miller | Location: Huntingdon, Tennessee

Half a century after it opened, the aluminium plant in Huntingdon, Tennessee, is undergoing a major expansion. Chad Pinson, a 22-year company veteran, is in charge of overseeing the project.

When Gränges’s facility in Huntingdon, Tennessee, marked its 50th anniversary in 2017, the occasion held special meaning for Chad Pinson. His father was on the construction crew that built the plant in 1967.

Now the son, a Huntingdon native, is overseeing a planned $110 million expansion of the aluminium facility that will create 85 new jobs and help meet growing demand for foil, automotive heat exchanger materials and HVAC applications.

“We can’t make enough to meet the demand,” Pinson says. “This expansion will give us the ability to enter new markets.”

The expansion will allow the Huntingdon plant to duplicate what some of its sister plants can currently do. It will add a new continuous casting line, a single stand rolling mill, a light gauge slitter and four new annealing ovens. Currently, the plant is looking to lock in major equipment contracts. The equipment deliveries will take 12 to 14 months, so installation is expected in early 2019, with production starting in the third quarter of that year.

Pinson’s current role as project director marks his 18th job since he started working with the company 22 years ago, when it was Noranda. He notes how times have changed in the past decade, from the great recession of 2008 to Noranda’s bankruptcy filing in early 2016, followed by Gränges’s acquisition of its downstream aluminium rolling business in the United States.

Now we’re in expansion mode, and people are very excited about it.
- Chad Pinson, Project director, Huntingdon plant expansion

“Since 2008 we had been in costcutting mode with limited focus on growth,” he says. “Now we’re in an expansion mode, and people are very excited about it. We’ve been adding several resources over the past year to prepare for growth.”

Pinson spent a couple of summers working at the Huntingdon plant while he was in college pursuing a degree in electrical engineering. He started with the company full-time in 1995 at the plant in New Madrid, Missouri. In 2001 he returned to Huntingdon to assist in the startup of the $240 million Quantum Leap expansion and then held a variety of roles for the next several years, eventually joining the corporate side as vice president productivity, running the organisation’s continuous improvement programme.

Besides overseeing the Huntingdon expansion, Pinson is also involved in Gränges’s recently announced potential joint venture with Japan’s Mitsubishi Aluminum Co. He’s responsible for the capital requirements for a planned new facility to be built in the United States. “One of the biggest challenges is scheduling conference calls with Japan, the United States and Sweden, given the time differences,” he says.

When he’s not busy at work, Pinson spends time training for a 10K run to benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee – an annual event that draws thousands of participants. He also has two teenage sons. One of them is away at college in Nashville, Tennessee, and he enjoys playing basketball with the other one, who plays on his high school team.

The Huntingdon plant had a celebration in October to mark its 50th anniversary. The event featured a big barbecue, games for the kids, giveaways for employees and plant tours for families and retirees. How did Chad Pinson like it? “I missed it because I was traveling back from China,” he says.