Chattanooga manufacturer Steward Advanced Materials plans $20 million expansion

Staff photo by Mike Pare / A piece of heavy equipment is shown Tuesday on land where Steward Advanced Materials wants to construct an expansion to its manufacturing plant in Chattanooga.
Staff photo by Mike Pare / A piece of heavy equipment is shown Tuesday on land where Steward Advanced Materials wants to construct an expansion to its manufacturing plant in Chattanooga.

One of Chattanooga's oldest companies is planning to sharply grow its manufacturing footprint and bolster the size of its workforce as it brings back technology it has usually purchased overseas.

Steward Advanced Materials is seeking to construct a new 30,000- to 40,000-square-foot building behind its existing 200,000-square-foot facilities a few blocks off Rossville Boulevard, said company Chief Executive Tim Armstrong.

"We found there was too much risk at relying on overseas companies in Asia and Europe," he said in a phone interview Thursday.

Armstrong said Steward produces metal and ceramic powders used in aerospace, automobile and other applications.

Steward, which traces its roots to 147 years ago, is planning the $20 million expansion on lots behind its East 38th Street location, according to a rezoning application filed with the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency. The company is aiming to rezone about 1.9 acres of land to manufacturing for the plant expansion, the filing said.

Joseph Parks of the Chattanooga engineering firm March Adams said by phone that Steward already owns the property and old single-family homes have been removed.

"They have a large warehouse there on the block," he said. "They're expanding northward to take up the rest of the block."

The application said Steward, which has operated at the site for many years, "receives no complaints" from neighbors and there's no expectation the new facility will cause any significant change in noise, odors and traffic.

Armstrong said the expansion is expected to add up to 24 employees to its existing workforce of about 50.

Business is growing "very rapidly," he said. The company CEO said he expects revenues to double within three years. He declined to reveal revenues for the venture that's owned by private equity firm Andlinger & Co.

If the company receives rezoning approvals, work could start on the expansion later this year, Armstrong said. He believes the new facility could start up in the last half of 2025, though he expressed concerns about high building costs.

Global supply chains were upended some three years ago amid the coronavirus pandemic. Companies across a variety of sectors are working to on-shore facilities or suppliers to boost reliability.

According to Fortune, more than 60% of European and U.S. manufacturing companies expect to re-shore part of their Asia production in the next three years, citing a survey conducted in early 2022.

Armstrong also noted the war in Ukraine in which Russian forces invaded and occupied parts of its neighbor in 2022. He said the war has disrupted energy supplies in Europe.

Steward tracks its business to 1876, when it was founded by U.S. Army Col. Demetrius M. Steward in Ohio, according to news archives. Slate pencils were some of the first products sold by the company, which moved in 1888 to Chattanooga, a place Steward knew because he had healed here from wounds received fighting in the Civil War.

Over the years, Steward has adjusted its business model, having called companies such as Apple, Zenith and Ricoh as customers.

Armstrong said Steward sold much of its historical business to Laird in 2009 and the advanced materials business was spun off. In 2015, Steward Advanced Materials was sold to Andlinger.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

  photo  Staff photo by Mike Pare / The front of the Steward Advanced Materials plant is shown Tuesday in Chattanooga.
 
 

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