Looking to the Future

Ash Grove Cement FactoryAsh Grove Cement Co. broke ground Friday October 19, 2007 on a new $350 million plant that will replace the existing facility here and increase both production and efficiency. Cement production at the plant will increase to 1.7 million tons per year, up 700,000 tons from the current plant’s rate, after three wet kilns are replaced by one dry kiln, company officials said. “Today’s announcement is a win-win-win for Ash Grove, Foreman and for the State of Arkansas,” said Ash Grove Chairman Charles Sunderland. “We couldn’t have done it without the vision, the energy and the hard work of local and state leaders.”

More than 600 construction workers will be employed while the plant is built. Updated control technology and fuel systems are being incorporated into the new plant to lessen the environmental impact. New loading silos will also be built. Sunderland said the new plant will be a milestone for the company, which he said is the largest American-owned cement company in the country. The local plant is a flagship plant for Ash Grove and will be a state-of-the-art plant for the industry, he said. “Ash Grove is really committed to being a national leader in the production of Portland cement,” Sunderland said.

Dan Peterson, plant manager, also praised employees’ hard work, saying it helped make this expansion possible. “Our employees are the best employees in this part of the country, if not the world,” he said, adding the plant wants to be a strong part of the community for the next 50 years. The company is also celebrating about 50 years of operation in Foreman.

The increased efficiency at the plant will help it compete with foreign-owned companies such as those in China. “We’re excited about what we’re doing today and excited about the future of Arkansas,” he said. Local officials praised the investment in the Foreman plant, which employs about 150 workers. Because of the increased efficiency, employment is not expected to increase at the plant itself.

“This is life to Foreman and Little River County,” said State Sen. Barbara Horn, D-Foreman. She also called it a “win-win-win” for all involved. State Rep. Larry Cowling, D-Foreman, called the expansion a big plus for the area and the state. “It’s been tremendous for the first 50 (years) and we can’t wait for the next 50 to start,” said Cowling. Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe praised the Sunderland family’s investment in the plant, which he said is particularly notable in an industry now 90 percent owned by foreign entities.

“Ash Grove has been a cornerstone of Foreman for 50 years. The company is now making an additional investment in this community, one that is both substantial and environmentally friendly,” Beebe said. “I appreciate their continued commitment to the people of Southwest Arkansas.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., said jobs at the plant are the kind that are hard to move overseas. I was just here to thank the folks from Ash Grove for investing in Southwest Arkansas and creating jobs for working families,” Ross said. Headquartered in Overland Park,Kan. Ash Grove is the sixth largest cement company in the nation with nine plants.

This article is a reprint from the Texarkana Gazette.