Lodge Manufacturing cooking up expansion in South Pittsburg, Tenn.

Lodge Manufacturing cooking up expansion in South Pittsburg, Tenn.

December 15th, 2012 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

America's oldest skillet maker is forging ahead in 2013 with plans for one of its biggest expansions of its South Pittsburg, Tenn., plant in more than two decades.

Lodge Manufacturing Co., announced Friday it will replace its melt center, add a sand system and molding machine and add up to 25 jobs next year. Despite the recession -- or perhaps because of it -- demand has grown in the past five year for Lodge's cast-iron skillets and other cookware.

"We're benefiting tremendously by the publicity of cooks using our products on the Food Network and elsewhere, and I think many consumers want to buy American," said Mark Kelly, director of marketing for the family owned company.

"The expansion is necessary to meet the current and projected demand for the company's signature line of cast-iron cookware," he said.

Lodge now employs about 220 people at its foundry and four distribution and sales outlets, Kelly said.

The company was founded in 1896 by Joseph Lodge and is currently run by two of Lodge's great-grandsons, chief executive Bob Kellerman and chief operating officer Henry Lodge.

The company began as The Blacklock Foundry, named after Joseph's Lodge's minister, but that foundry burned down in May 1910.

Three months later, Lodge rebuilt the foundry under its current Lodge Manufacturing name.

Lodge remains the last major U.S. maker of cast-iron cookware.

Kelly said the company has enjoyed strong sales growth despite the recession over the past five years.

The company now offers a line of pre-seasoned, ready-to-use cast-iron cookware called Lodge Logic, plus a line of colorful, enameled cast-iron cookware.

The Signature Series, featuring pre-seasoned cast-iron cookware with riveted stainless-steel handles, is the newest addition to the Lodge product line.

Vulcan Engineering Co., of Helena, Ala., is the contractor for the expansion.

Lodge has worked with First Tennessee Bank of Chattanooga to provide financing for the project