Lawrence Quinn says that the beautiful part of life is you don’t know where it’s going to take you.
“I’m the only guy I know who has a wife from Poland, a son from Hong Kong, a daughter from Richmond, Va., and I’m an Englishman with an Irish background,” he said.
Quinn, 44, five months ago took over as president of Alstom’s nearly 2-year-old, $300 million Chattanooga factory that builds steam and gas turbines for power plants and retrofits existing facilities.
He has taken a circuitous route to arrive in Chattanooga, including working in England, France, Switzerland and spending over 16 years in China.
“I’ve seen all the changes in China,” Quinn said in a recent interview at the Riverfront Parkway plant, adding he arrived in the Asian nation just after the Tiananmen Square uprising and stayed though its evolution the past two decades. “It has been quite impressive.”
That being said, he said he’s not looking to leave Chattanooga in the near future.
“In all my 22 years of traveling, this is the first place I’ve bought a home not for investment but to live,” Quinn said. “I’ve lived in a lot of places. This is No. 1.”
Quinn said he came to Chattanooga because he loves a challenge. He has worked in construction throughout his career, but he said he wants to take a new plant and “make it into the most important factory in the Alstom global network.”
Now at about 230 workers, he aims to see the factory increase its production capacity to reach the planned 350 workforce mark and beyond.
Quinn said the first natural gas turbine assembled at the plant is to leave the factory in March for a site in Mexico.
Last August, Alstom for the first time shipped nuclear turbine rotors from Chattanooga via the Tennessee River to an Illinois power plant.
Concerning the so-called nuclear renaissance, it has taken a hard hit due to world economy and the disaster in Fukishima, Japan, last year, Quinn said.
“That has required Chattanooga to be flexible,” the Alstom official said. “We have met that challenge.”
Quinn said he remains optimistic about the local plant’s prospects, including retrofitting fossil fuel facilities and servicing existing and new nuclear plants.
Alstom recently won a major project in Russia involving a new two-unit nuclear power station.
“As Chattanooga is part of the network, I’ll strive to work within the organization and hopefully pull some work from that,” he said.
Quinn said he also hopes Alstom’s long relationship with TVA will help it secure work for the planned Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in Jackson County, Ala.
“Alstom is in this for the long term,” he said. “We didn’t invest in Chattanooga for a short-term hit. We’ve invested $300 million in a long, strategic plan with strong sustainable gains.”
Patsy Hazlewood, the state Department of Economic and Community Development’s regional director, said the energy and power sector in which Alstom is situated has a lot of potential for the future.
“We’re pleased they’ve chosen to make this big investment,” she said, adding that Quinn has been “a real cheerleader for Chattanooga.”
Quinn said people are the plant’s strongest asset.
“Development of these people will make us a No. 1 manufacturing facility worldwide,” he said.
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 ...