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Heidelberg unveils Mitchell cement plant as company cornerstone, shortage answer – Inside INdiana Business – Inside INdiana Business

Shrouded by lush green trees, country highway billboards and horse buggies in a rural southern Indiana town is a tower sprouting out the foothills, leading to what could be a regional solution to a major cement shortage.
Texas-based Heidelberg Materials North America celebrated the opening of a more than $600 million cement plant Tuesday in Mitchell, which will serve as a Midwest powerhouse dealing with the shortage head-on. It will produce 2.4 million tons of cement annually, tripling its previous output and making it the second largest facility in North America.
Dozens of community leaders, Heidelberg customers and politicians watched executives cut the ribbon on the new facility as it hummed behind them. Indiana officials including Gov. Eric Holcomb; Sen. Mike Braun, R-IN; Sen. Todd Young, R-IN; and Congresswoman Erin Houchin, R-9, sent video messages congratulating and thanking the industry leader for investing in the state.
“When I think about how you’re creating 50 high quality careers, not just jobs but careers, joining the talented team in Lawrence County or how you’re expanding your world class operation that’s already providing the quality materials the world needs right now to build more efficiently than ever before, I couldn’t be more excited,” Holcomb said in his message.
Videos from Gov. Eric Holcomb, Sen. Todd Young, Sen. Mike Braun, and Rep. Erin Houchin play for guests at the ribbon cutting.
Heidelberg Materials CEO Dominik von Achten and other executives applauded the assistance of public officials to make the state an attractive and friendly business partner when planning development and increasing operations.
“We want to make this work together,” he said.
Heidelberg Materials North America, rebranding from the former Lehigh Hanson name earlier this year, is a subsidiary of Germany-based Heidelberg Materials.
Shortage at hand
The need for cement largely stems from the uptick in projects spurred by the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which made $110 billion available for infrastructure projects. Bloomberg reports that demand has hiked up prices and several companies were “sold out.”
Additionally, cement and concrete are typically produced close to demand sources as the product’s bulk leads to potentially high transportation costs. This new plant may help alleviate those prices through a renovated rail yard and the addition of 1,000 rail cars.
“We would hope to see projects no longer have the delays from supply chain from a cement supply standpoint,” Chris Ward, CEO and president of the company’s North American operations, told Inside INdiana Business. “Those delays should be reduced in a meaningful way as this plant gets fully up to speed.”
The construction supply chain issue is consistent throughout the U.S., Ward said. This investment will result in a larger capacity to support construction projects and relieve constraints imposed by the increase of demand.
Chris Ward talk about the impact of the new plant.
The facility is touted as the most technologically advanced and sustainable plant ever built and how it will address the needs of clients through its substantial increase in both bagged and bulk production.
Leaders say the plant’s construction will better and more efficiently address the demand. This includes a 219-foot wide dome that can hold 154,000 tons of clinker and a kiln producing three times what the plant’s previous three kilns could combined. A bagging center is also anticipated which will move at a pace to fill a bag with cement every second and a pallet worth of bags in 45.
“We’ll be in a great position to provide the critical needs of the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” Ward said. “The efforts and innovation seen here will support these critically important American construction projects with American jobs.”
Community in mind
David Rosenberg, chief operating officer and chief of staff for the Indiana Economic Development Corp., said the new plant was sought for 10-15 years and through the pandemic, resulting in one of the largest investments made in Lawrence County. It’s reflective of the other development populating throughout the state, he said.
The plant has been a mainstay of the community since its initial creation in 1902. Ward said there is a high quality workforce in the town that creates a product reflective of Heidelberg standards. They wanted to reaffirm their commitment and see out a renewed future in this community.
von Achten added the plant’s upgrade is the biggest capital investment made by Heidelberg ever and they did so because their relationship to the Mitchell area was so strong.
“With this plant, we plant the seeds for the next generations of people from Lawrence County, from Indiana, to work on the materials we provide to build America,” von Achten said.
Dominik von Achten talks about his company’s investment in Indiana and plans to become more environmentally sustainable.
About 50 full-time jobs were added with the new construction in addition to the around 120 existing jobs. It also spurred opportunity during its development, starting in 2019, with over 1,000 construction jobs created to build the plant in about two and half years.
Several local connections are now built into the fabric of the plant including Bloomington-based Harrell-Fish Inc. Staff also utilize local restaurants and other services locally as well.
Sustainability a goal
Heidelberg leaders say their top priority is transforming this plant to become increasingly more sustainable. The goal is to completely decarbonize the plant by 2030. The company has already decreased carbon emissions by 33%.
“We are fully committed — fully committed — to globally lead the way to decarbonize the product, to almost reinvent it, and make sure that the next generations in Mitchell and in the U.S. are able to depend on that great product,” von Achten said.
With funding support from the U.S. Department of Energy, the company said it will run a study to look at the site’s carbon capture and storage solutions.
In the hustle and bustle of our professional lives, we often find ourselves engrossed in the intricacies of our trades. However, amidst our daily routines, there exists a unique opportunity to broaden our horizons and delve into the critical issues facing the state of Indiana. …
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