In an area of Stanly County which has seen a plethora of change over the last several years, one business looks to impact the western end and the county. Due to start full operations in August, Charlotte Pipe and Foundry’s new location in Oakboro will become the company’s principal base of operations. Brett Barbee, an Oakboro town commissioner who is the project procurement manager for Charlotte Pipe, said one of the biggest changes for Stanly citizens will be the plant being closer to its employees.
Many of the company’s workers, Barbee said, live in Stanly and Cabarrus counties, and will have a 50-minute commute or longer reduced to 15 minutes. Barbee said the closer drive will mean less money spent on gas getting to and from the plant, which for employees will be like getting a raise. Those employees also will walk into a new plant, Barbee said, “that is environmentally better to them, as far as better lighting, cleaner (facility), higher ceilings.”
The higher ceilings, he explained, will allow the heat to rise, which will mean better working conditions and airflow. Barbee also said the plant will have the most modern dust collection system “definitely in the country and the world.” Charlotte Pipe’s Oakboro plant will also have more new technology with robotics taking some of the hard jobs of the plant. Regarding more room in the plant, Barbee said, “we’re just amazed at the room we have to be able to safely do a job.”
Once Charlotte Pipe goes full time in Oakboro, Barbee said, it will hopefully attract other businesses. He thinks vendors who supply and support the plant could move their own operations to Stanly. One such company, Piedmont Foundry, moved to Oakboro 10 years ago, Barbee said, and delivers consumable supplies to Charlotte Pipe and Grady Foundry in Biscoe. Having more suppliers closer to the plant, he said, will help ease supply storage issues because the company will not have to keep as many supplies in its warehouse. Another hope for Charlotte Pipe, Barbee said, is to attract more restaurants to Oakboro. Currently, he noted, no restaurants are open for breakfast on Saturday mornings. “There are 500 associates with Charlotte Pipe. We hope restaurants will come in and want to provide quality food for these folks,” Barbee said. The property taxes the new foundry will pay to the town, he added, will go back into work updating Oakboro’s infrastructure. “A lot of that is old at the moment and it needs to be redone,” Barbee said. Most of the plant’s shifts, he said, start between 4:30 and 6 a.m. Employees will soon have a shorter walk from the parking lot to a new bathhouse as opposed to the current situation in Charlotte. With new break facilities, including plans to have food trucks at the plant several days a week, the work life for employees will be more convenient, he said. Because of the non-linear expansion of the current plant, the new straight-line production design of the new plant will increase production efficiency. As project procurement manager, Barbee said he works with vendors to provide production equipment and machinery for the new plant. Barbee worked on the line at Charlotte Pipe before getting to his current position. “It’s a hot, dirty job. In my position, I try to make sure those guys have everything they need to make their job better,” Barbee said. As of a few weeks ago, Charlotte Pipe started melting metal for the first time. The effort “did not go so well,” he said, but he added the plant fixed the problems and went two weeks to make sure everything was ready to go. “We successfully were able to melt iron and pour some molds, making an ingot block just to get our productions machines used,” Barbee said, adding the efforts are just practice to lead up to full operations. Charlotte Pipe’s new plant in Oakboro is scheduled to open by August or sometime during the third quarter of the year, he added.