RAGLAND — After more than two years, a $300 million expansion project came to an end Thursday as National Cement held its ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open the company’s new kiln facility.
Officials said the economic development project is one of the largest single-capital investments in the history of St. Clair County.
“This major investment on behalf of the Vicat Group results in at least 40 percent reduction in our carbon footprint vastly improves our environmental impact and is a big step in the entire cement industry’s efforts to achieve carbon neutrality across the concrete value chain by 2050,” said Spencer Weitman, president of National Cement Company of Alabama.
Officials broke ground on the plant expansion project in January 2020.
Officials said at the time that the project would not add employees, but would save the 132 jobs that were already there.
“It has been very important to me throughout my tenure as governor that we not only bring new industry into our state, but also work to strengthen existing industries,” said Gov. Kay Ivey, who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “National Cement Company of Alabama has served as one of St. Clair County’s largest employer for decades, and thanks to this $300 million investment, I’m proud to say that will continue to be the case in the years to come.”
Weitman said the project would have been impossible without the support of Guy Sidos, chairman and CEO of the Vicat Group in France.
Vicat purchased the plant in 1974, Sidos said, adding that it was the first acquisition made by the company outside of France. The cement plant originally opened in Ragland in 1908, and generations of families have worked there.
“Ragland was where I started my career in the cement industry,” Sidos told the 160 guests who attended Thursday’s ribbon cutting ceremony.
He said the company is blessed to be in Ragland and Alabama.
“We are thankful for all the support,” Sidos said.
Officials said the Town of Ragland depends on the large industry for its revenues and through an economic development agreement, the city will continue to receive needed operating funds.
St. Clair County Commission Chairman Paul Manning said National Cement is not only important to Ragland but to St. Clair County.
Manning said he appreciated what National Cement has done.
“National Cement has been here for more than 100 years, and I’ve been involved indirectly with the company for 50 of those years,” Manning said. “I want to thank the people and workers of Ragland who have made this company such a success.”
The project was possible through a joint cooperation agreement between National Cement, Ragland, St. Clair County and the State of Alabama.
“A coach is only as good as the team, and National Cement has put together a great team,” said Don Smith, the St. Clair County Economic Development Council Director.
He also thanked those who had traveled across the globe to attend Thursday’s ceremony.
Ragland Mayor Richard Bunt thanked Sidos for believing in their Ragland workers, and he also thanked all those involved in the economic development project.
“The new kiln line at National Cement Ragland is an incredible improvement made by The Vicat Group,” Bunt said. “This will ensure National Cement remains in operations for many more years, continues to be a great employer and remains a great economic driver for the Town of Ragland.”