• Parent: Lerman Enterprises of South Bend, Ind.

• History: Steel Warehouse came to Chattanooga in 2005

• Location: Centre South Riverport

• Employees: 80

A Chattanooga steel processing company seeking to capture a new market is undergoing a multimillion-dollar expansion and plans to add jobs.

Steel Warehouse of Tennessee, which shares a Centre South Riverport facility with sister company LJT Tennessee, is buying equipment that will help it attract new clients, officials said.

The company will soon offer custom-cut plates of inch-thick steel with an improved surface finish not currently available to customers.

"Chattanooga has earned the right to be at the forefront," said Rick Quinn, the company's vice president.

Rick Hooper, Steel Warehouse's inside sales manager, said it's uncertain how many jobs might be created. That depends the eventual size of the market and customer base, he said.

Currently, Steel Warehouse has about 80 workers, Hooper said, while LJT Tennessee has another 110.

Officials said the company will be the only steel service center in the Southeast with equipment able to process steel of that thickness. It should sharply increase the volume of hot-rolled coil steel shipped through the Riverport, they said.

Quinn said the steel plates are used in such sectors as bridge building, construction equipment and steel poles.

"We want to be on the leading edge," he said.

Hooper said the new equipment will allow the end user to buy a product on which length can be easily adjusted.

"It helps him to reduce scrap," he said.

Plans are to have the equipment installed and operational by year's end, Quinn said.

The company will focus on training employees first and then add workers later in 2011.

Trevor Hamilton, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's vice president for economic development, said the area's transportation network and work force have helped the company "deliver quality products" to customers.