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People gather Tuesday with the new owners and operators to visit Kalenborn Technologies, a new manufacturer that produces wear-protected steel that will open in the former Tower Steel facility near Soddy-Daisy. Staff Photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press

The Chattanooga area's German business connection is growing as a $65 million-a-year manufacturing company with plants worldwide opens a factory here.

Kalenborn International, headquartered in Vettelschoss, Germany, is slated to start operations soon at its Kalenborn Technologies plant in Soddy-Daisy.

Conrad Mauritz, managing director of the global company that employs 550 people at plants in the United States, Europe, South America and Asia, said he's confident about the launch of the Tennessee plant.

"We're proceeding very fast," he said at the 24,000-square-foot building that Kalenborn purchased from Tower Steel. "It's the right time as the recession ends."

The Sequoyah Road factory will produce wear-resistant metal plates for use in power plants and other facilities, said Phil Mitchell, Kalenborn Technologies president. The plant also will fabricate steel for stairs, handrails and other items. The company is investing about $1.6 million in the Soddy-Daisy facility.

Plans are to start with four workers and ramp up to 20 employees, Mitchell said. Plans are to hire some former employees of Tower Steel, which closed its plant at the site last fall.

Within five years, Kalenborn Technologies sales are slated to grow to about $5 million annually, said Joe Accetta, president of Abresist Kalenborn, the Indiana-based company that will oversee the Tennessee business.

He said the company landed in Soddy-Daisy because of the availability of the facility, its Southeast location and transportation access.

"We look forward to working with local suppliers," Accetta said.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said Kalenborn is the kind of business that excites him.

"We're recruiting actively," he said.

Kalenborn joins a string of new German investment in the Chattanooga area.

Wacker Chemical is investing about $1.5 billion in a new plant in Bradley County.

Mauritz said his company already does business with Wacker in Germany and is confident it could supply the new plant.

Also in Hamilton County, Volkswagen is investing $1 billion and employing between 2,000 and 2,500 people at its new Enterprise South industrial park auto assembly plant.