published Saturday, March 13th, 2010

Manufacturer Mueller moves HQ here

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J. Ed. Marston

Chattanooga is gaining a new corporate headquarters as a company with a long history in the city plans to bring its top management team here.

Mueller Co., currently based in Decatur, Ill., is shifting its president and nearly a dozen officials to the Scenic City, according to the company that makes water valves and hydrants.

"Chattanooga is a much more central location for us," said John Pensec, a spokesman for the company's parent, Atlanta-based Mueller Water Products Inc.

Mueller has a production plant in Chattanooga off Amnicola Highway where it employs 415 workers and a facility in Cleveland, Tenn., with 69 employees. It has a fire hydrant plant in Albertville, Ala.

Mueller will lease space for its home office in downtown's Republic Centre, Mr. Pensec said.

A number of Mueller Co.'s business operations, such as customer service, accounting and corporate travel, will remain in Decatur.

Still, Chattanooga's gaining a headquarters is a trend reversal due in part to the acquisition of city-based businesses in recent years.

J.Ed. Marston, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's vice president of marketing, said Mueller's move is an endorsement of the city. He cited the city's business atmosphere and lower costs.

Kim White, president of the nonprofit downtown redevelopment group RiverCity Co., said wooing more company headquarters to the central city is a main goal.

"This is a sign of things to come," she said.

MUELLER CO.

* 1933 -- Enters Chattanooga market by purchasing Columbian Iron Works.

* 1966 -- Moves to its current site on 52 acres.

* 2005 -- Sister company U.S. Pipe closes city operation.

* 2010 -- Mueller plans to shift corporate headquarters to Chattanooga.

Mr. Pensec said he expects the transition to be complete over the summer.

In addition to the logistics, he mentioned Chattanooga's business climate and quality of life.

"It will help us grow the business and attract talent," he said.

Mueller officials, like others in the infrastructure business, are looking for the housing industry to recover.

Its publicly held parent company, which also owns U.S. Pipe, reported a net loss of $10.7 million, or 7 cents a share, on lower sales in its most recent quarter.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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