The Ash Grove Cement Company’s Board of Directors approved a $125 million dollar-plus investment in the company’s Midlothian, Texas, plant at its May meeting. A new preheater, precalciner production system will make Ash Grove’s facility among the lowest emitting cement producers in Texas.

According to Ash Grove Chairman Charles Sunderland, “We were considering a range of options as a result of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) portland cement National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) rule, which is scheduled to take effect in Sept. 2013. We concluded that we wanted to continue to provide Texans with locally-made cement from our Midlothian facility for the foreseeable future, and therefore, approved the modernization project.”

The Midlothian plant employs more than 110, and its payroll exceeds $7 million. Indirectly, the plant creates 1,200 local jobs. Ash Grove has invested millions in the Midlothian facility over the past four decades to reduce emissions from the plant’s production. Since 1996, Ash Grove has reduced ozone-forming nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by more than 60 percent.

“Our employees appreciate the confidence the board has shown in them by making this decision. We have generations of employees working here, many with decades of service, and this decision demonstrates that Ash Grove will maintain its strong north Texas presence for our families, our community and our customers,” said Kevin Blankenship, Midlothian plant manager. “They are excited about the news.”

Earlier this year, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) granted Ash Grove a one-year extension, until September 2014, to comply with the portland cement NESHAP rule. The extension enables Ash Grove to operate the existing kilns and clinker coolers while this project is completed.

To mark the modernization, the company will announce a community celebration at a later date.

Reaction among community leaders also has been favorable.

“We are very pleased that Ash Grove has committed to investing over $100 million to upgrade their plant here,” stated Midlothian Mayor Bill Houston. “Ash Grove is an outstanding corporate citizen, and they’ve always worked hard to be a good and responsible neighbor.” Mayor Houston added: “By investing in this key technology upgrade, our Ash Grove plant will remain viable, competitive and environmentally friendly for many years to come. And that’s important not just to Midlothian, but the DFW region as a whole.”

“From a business perspective, Ash Grove’s decision to approve the Midlothian plant modernization project ensures that as our economy in the Dallas Fort Worth region continues to grow, there will be a great supply of locally made cement,” according to Dallas Regional Chamber President Jim Oberwetter. “The emissions reductions are an added benefit too.”

“My colleagues will be delighted, as I am, to know that Ash Grove is making this investment in Midlothian during difficult economic times. The costs that this company is incurring to comply with mandated federal air emissions regulations are incredible while sales are down in the industry by more than 40 percent. We are fortunate that they are making this investment in Texas. In my estimation, Ash Grove always has been a leading corporate citizen,” Texas House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie) said in his reaction to the decision.

“As the state senator serving the people of Midlothian and Ellis County, I'm proud of this plant for its history of making quality products for its customers in the free market, providing good jobs and its creation of tax revenue for the community. The board’s decision will ensure that the plant will remain operational for the foreseeable future, and, as a result, continue to support our regional economy,” said Brian Birdwell, Texas State Senator (R-Granbury).

The federal elected official representing Ash Grove’s Midlothian plant reacted similarly to the company’s announcement.

“For years, I’ve seen these companies scrutinized by groups who would rather shut them down and force Texans to rely on imported cement. In spite of that, in a bad economy, Ash Grove has chosen to continue to operate in Texas and further improve on its record of reducing air emissions. I am pleased by Ash Grove’s decision and by the knowledge that it will be among the lowest emitting cement producers in Texas,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-6).