Alstom Power Turbomachines' new $280 million Chattanooga plant is on track to start partial production in June, its chief executive said Thursday.
"We're making it a flagship factory," said CEO Stephane Cai, adding that the steam and gas turbine production site will be the nation's largest such facility by capacity.
Also, the French power company is seeking gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design status for the Riverfront Parkway plant, he said.
"Fifty percent of the existing site will be returned to green," Mr. Cai told the Downtown Council of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce as the company has done extensive demolition and refurbishing of structures.
Mr. Cai said the company has hired 176 employees so far as it aims to bring on a total of 350 by 2012. Alstom's adjacent boiler business already employs between 500 and 600 workers, he said.
In late 2007, Paris-based Alstom unveiled its plan to make the turbines in Chattanooga as it seeks to capture business related to nuclear and fossil power plant construction in the United States.
The plant site, while run by Combustion Engineering in the 1970s, employed about 5,700 people when nuclear plant construction was in full swing.
Trevor Hamilton, the Chamber's vice president for economic development, said he's glad the project is on track. Mr. Hamilton said he talks a lot about Alstom when recruiting new business to the city.
* Headquarters -- Paris
* Businesses -- Power generation and rail transport infrastructure
* Factories -- 35 globally
* Employees -- 81,700 worldwide; 12,100 in U.S.
* Net income (year ending March 2009) -- $1.5 billion
"Having a global leader in the energy sector helps our ability to position ourselves to attract other energy-related companies," he said. "It's a good fit for our city."
Mr. Cai said the 350,000-square-foot plant will have capacity to grow if there's demand. That also could mean more hiring, he said.
Chattanooga has the advantage of an on-site dock to help Alstom transport its products via the Tennessee River, the 22-year Alstom veteran said.
"The existing infrastructure was a fit for large turbines and generation parts," Mr. Cai said.
He said the first new engineering employees were recruited nationally and many of them were lured from competitors. The next phase of hirings will be recruited locally, Mr. Cai said.