A steel processor plans to add jobs and expand its business in Chattanooga, but the pace of the hiring hinges on the economy, officials said Thursday.
"A lot depends on the economy and how fast we can get going on our customers," said Ted Lerman, president of LJT Tennessee/Steel Warehouse.
The company, which has a facility at Centre South River-port, is adding 84 jobs as it undertakes an $11 million expansion at the site.
Most of the hiring will be done in the next 18 months, company Vice President Michael Donnelly said. Pay for the jobs will average about $46,000 a year, he said.
Mr. Donnelly said the company is diversifying its business by going into galvanized tubing and other product lines that are driving the expansion.
The mechanical and structural grade steel tubing manufacturer and flat-rolled steel service center will put up two building expansions totaling 70,000 square feet for $1.8 million. That will give the business 288,000 square feet.
In addition, the company will invest another $9.15 million in equipment, officials said at the Mayor's Industry Appreciation Breakfast at The Chattanoogan Hotel.
David Altig, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's senior vice president, said at the meeting that the big problem with the recession isn't the number of people out of work but the failure of the economy to create new jobs.
"The unusual part was the pace at which we were failing to create jobs," he said.
Mr. Altig said if a person has a job during the recession, that is well, indeed. "If you don't, it's really, really tough."
Dennis Lockhart, president of the Atlanta Fed, also was in the city Thursday for a meeting of the board of the bank's Nashville branch.
Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey said the LJT expansion "supports our reputation that we have weathered the recession."
Mayor Ron Littlefield said manufacturing "will continue to be a cornerstone" of the Chattanooga economy.
Tom Edd Wilson, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's chief executive officer, said the expansion is an example of the strength of existing businesses and their importance to the local economy.
Trevor Hamilton, the Chamber's vice president of economic development, said LJT has expanded several times and is to be applauded for diversifying its customer base.
Mr. Hamilton said an incentive package for LJT is under negotiation.