Protomet Corp. ramping up Loudon expansion, hiring

Protomet Corp. is on track to keep its hiring promises, and should have its Loudon County plant running just over a year after announcing a major expansion in the former Maremont Exhaust Products facility, company founder and President Jeff Bohanan said.

“We’re looking to have the renovation complete, ready to kind of start operations, fully in July,” he said. “We will be continuing to bring in equipment throughout this year.”

Protomet hired 40 people in the last year and plans to add another 50 this year, Bohanan said. Under a five-year agreement with the state, it has four more years to reach its goal of 200 new jobs, he said.

The company now employs nearly 150 and plans to host a job fair this summer in Loudon County, but many positions are already available in Loudon and its original Oak Ridge location.

“We have jobs posted on our website,” Bohanan said. That’s

Shippers, engineers and machine operators among those needed

Protomet needs to hire people in shipping, assembly and finishing, but also shift production managers and several types of engineers, as well as standard machine operators, Bohanan said.

“Really, there’s going to be people hired at all levels,” he said.

Protomet helps its corporate customers make their products more simply and less expensively. It also provides precision manufacturing and finishing for customers in the marine, automotive, homeland security, industrial and power markets. In recent years the company began making its own high-end brands under the name PTM Edge Watersports.

The company’s engineers are developing new products in the fields Protomet already serves, but Bohanan wants to branch into other lines as well, he said.

That includes more boat products. Though new boat sales in the U.S. reportedly dropped by half from 2000 to 2017, Bohanan said that hasn’t affected Protomet’s business.

“The (marine) industry in general is very strong,” he said.

Bohanan founded Protomet in 1997 after working at the Y-12 National Security Complex for 12 years. The company grew quickly and moved into Oak Ridge’s Bethel Valley Industrial Park. It has expanded several times in that site, opening a $7 million factory in 2013.

The company announced in January 2016 it would add at least 100,000 square feet of factory space, and up to 200 new jobs over five years. To that end, the company bought nearly 20 acres of adjacent land, but decided that wouldn’t work for its desired expansion.

Bohanan looked at other sites in Tennessee and other states, settling in June 2017 on the former muffler factory in Loudon County. Empty since 2013, building at 2400 Maremont Parkway covers 527,000 square feet. Protomet is occupying less than half of that, with the rest rented out as storage.

Bohanan said at the time that Protomet would put about $30 million into renovating and equipping the building. He said the state would contribute $1.5 million to reimburse some renovation costs. Loudon County is giving the company a 10-year tax break.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Jim Gaines

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Published April 27, 2018