This story was updated Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, at 8:12 p.m. with more information.
KIMBALL, Tenn. — Mueller Water Products on Wednesday, with Gov. Bill Lee and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe on hand, announced a $41 million investment in new operations in Kimball, Tennessee, that will provide 325 jobs over the next five years.
Mueller set its sights on the 233,000-square-foot former Westrock building in the industrial area between Jasper and Kimball soon after that company closed in May after 24 years of operation, Marion County Mayor David Jackson said at the building's entrance on Industrial Boulevard on Wednesday.
When Westrock closed "we took a step back," Jackson said, "and now we're taking a huge step forward."
Jackson laughingly admitted he'd remained mum on the incoming company "until somebody came by and told me they'd put the name on the building."
"The new location in Marion County supports the expansion of our manufacturing capabilities around our Chattanooga operations," Mueller Water Products President and CEO Scott Hall said in a news release on the expansion. Hall said the company looks forward to opening in 2020.
The governor said the announcement was special to him because Mueller Valves was a supplier to his company before he ran for office.
"This is a high-quality global company. This is a major manufacturer for the construction industry as well as multiple other industries that they serve with the products they create," Lee said. "We are incredibly fortunate to have a company of this caliber locate here in Marion County."
Lee also discussed an announcement made an hour earlier regarding a joint state and local pre-apprenticeship program launched in neighboring Jasper with local company Valmont Industries to provide vocational training to local high school students.
Lee's Governor's Investment in Vocational Education Act has issued a $1 million grant to strengthen vocational education in Marion County, he said.
"I commit to this company that as they expand and as they grow, we're going to have workers for them for the next expansion," Lee said.
Mueller Specialty Valves Vice President and General Manager Scott Floyd, a Whitwell native, said the key to the move to Marion County was a "true partnership" on the parts of industry and local and state governments.
"It became real apparent that Marion County was a leading choice for us," Floyd said.
The site was formerly home to Atlanta-based pulp and paper product company Westrock that after 24-years of operation shut down its Kimball facility in May this year, consolidating production at its Chattanooga plant, the Times Free Press reported. The building was originally built in 1994 and opened the following year as a Rock-Tenn facility.
According to newspaper archives and historic accounts on the Mueller website, the company had its beginnings in Chattanooga as the Columbian Iron Works, which Mueller purchased in 1933. Columbian was organized in Chattanooga 1912 by J.W. Conway, H.S. Chamberlain and H.M. Lofton, according to a September 1979 story in the Chattanooga Times on Mueller's announcement of an expansion of its local operations that would add at least 15 new jobs.
Kimball Mayor Rex Pesnell said he and Kimball residents welcome Mueller and look forward to the company making Kimball home.
"The addition of another industry to our area to provide jobs for our community is always a great day for our community, town and county," Pesnell said in the release.
Rolfe said that Tennessee "places a major emphasis on creating a business environment that not only attracts new companies to our state but promotes growth for our existing businesses that call Tennessee home."