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More Big Steel

SET Enterprises Inc. is a massive steel plant that will produce steel for a wide range of end uses, from blenders to cars.










Project Name: SET Enterprises Inc. steel processing plant
Location: Jackson, Ala.
Project Construction Value: $8 million
Construction Manager: Cooper Brothers Construction, Selma, Ala.
General Contractor: Cooper Brothers Construction
Architect: Design/Build by Cooper Brothers Construction with architect Don Stansell & Associates, AIA
Engineers: Martin Structural Services; Construction Testing & Engineering Inc.
Major Subcontractors: D&L (site), Advantage Concrete, Delta Concrete (concrete pits), Steel Built (metal building erector), American Buildings Co. (steel supplier), All Four Electric (electric), Capital Refrigeration (mechanical)
Completion date: Feb. 2012

It’s a bit hard to grasp the full scale and scope of what will be demanded of the SET Enterprises Inc. flat rolled steel processing plant that Cooper Brothers Construction Co. is building in Jackson, Ala., says Cooper Brothers President and CEO Tom Bolton.

At full capacity, the plant will be capable of processing 360,000 tons of material and will bring in 80 truckloads of coiled steel a day. “They’ll be handling coilable steel that weighs 40 tons, or 80,000 pounds, and this building will be designed to carry two traveling bridge cranes that will pick up 40 tons,” Bolton says. The facility is scheduled to be on-line early in 2012 and will create up to 40 new jobs, with a total investment of about $12 million, with about $8 million of that being construction costs.

The 65,000-square-foot plant itself is “a big, heavy, steel box designed to handle heavy steel material,” Bolton says. “It’s not a real complicated process (to construct), but it’s extremely critical to be sure you have all the proper design so the building won’t fail or not handle the processes it’s designed for.”

That starts from the bottom up. “The foundation and slab has actually more tonnage of steel in and under the slab than in the structures above it,” says Steven M. South, assistant project manager for Cooper Brothers.

SET Enterprises Inc. is a minority/veteran owned company that processes flat rolled steel primarily for the automotive industry in its other five plants in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. The company saw a good opportunity for growth in Jackson with the ThyssenKrupp Steel USA  plant located nearby in Calvert, Ala., and potential customers for their end projects in the many steel manufacturers and producers in the Southeast.

SET’s leaders “were developing a southern strategy,” Bolton says. “They are a major Ford and Chrysler supplier and they were trying to diversify into areas other than automotive, and obviously with one of the largest steel manufacturers in the world locating down here this was the logical location to look.” The site has on-site truck and rail access and barge access nearby, too.

ThyssenKrupp produces steel coil, and SET’s Jackson plant will be a splitting (or cutting) facility where steel coils will be cut to suit customers’ needs, which could be anything from automobile to blender parts or surgical equipment, Bolton explains, and the SET plant will have two lines with “splitters that cut steel that’s up to a half-inch thick like scissors.”

While the enormity of what will be handled in the plant is impressive, Bolton says so are the cooperative efforts that led SET to locate in Jackson.
Several towns, including others in Alabama, were courting SET when it started looking for a Southern locale, but, public and private leaders in Jackson were determined to land the plant, Bolton says.

“The combination of the grants and the incentives from the community, as well as the state helped seal the deal.” Bolton says. “The state helped with an industrial access road and the city basically secured a grant for a rail spur,” he says. “There has been quite a bit of cooperation on behalf of the entire community, statewide.”

Bolton says that Cooper Brothers even helped arrange local financing. “It’s a total investment of around $12-13 million” with actual construction costs of about $8 million, he says. “In this day and time it’s a big project.”

Cooper Brothers got the job via a design-bid-build process in January. “It took four and a half months to finally secure financing for them,” he adds. “That’s just the market. But, it’s under way, it’s under construction.”

There is room on the site for expansion, which community leaders hope SET decides to use for a stamping facility in the future.

The construction company also made sure other contractors in the state benefitted from the SET project: all the subcontractors are from Alabama.  “They did not insist on that but we did,” Bolton says. “First, we like to employ people that we trust on design build projects.” That’s especially important because “these jobs are always on the fast track. Even though the financing took three months longer, the completion date didn’t move.”

“We’re trying to do business in Alabama,” Bolton says, adding the company has been doing that since 1938.

In the past, Cooper Brothers Construction has focused primarily on industrial and institutional construction, such as new schools—or did when the market was stronger, Bolton says. “Now, we’re kind of going back to our roots, which is design, bid and build industrial projects.” They’ve done several projects for automotive suppliers in the Montgomery and Selma area.

Cooper Brothers also privately built a hotel in Selma. “We own that one as well as built it,” he says. “You’ve got to create work sometimes in this environment.” But, the hotel is more than a straight-up investment, he says; it’s being used in economic development and to help attract people to the area.

Tara Hulen is a freelance contributor to Business Alabama. She lives in Birmingham.

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