Cerrowire expansion brings jobs, opportunities for North Alabama community

A new 270,000-square-foot metal clad cable plant has opened in Morgan Center Business Park

Fakeisha Harris checks out a giant wire spool at Cerrowire in Hartselle. Photo by David Higginbotham.

After almost 50 years making wire in the small North Alabama community of Hartselle, Cerrowire expanded its footprint in Morgan County this year with a new facility and purpose.

The company’s new multi-million-dollar, 270,000-square-foot Metal Clad (MC) Cable plant opened in mid-April, less than a year after breaking ground in the Morgan Center Business Park just off I-65. The facility expands the offerings from the company and has brought more than 100 new jobs to the area with plans for more growth.

“To go from dirt to this in 11 months is pretty astonishing,” says Phil Schmidt, Cerrowire’s brand manager.

And Cerrowire President Stewart Smallwood says that this is only the beginning. “The completion of this plant in North Alabama has already created 100 advanced manufacturing jobs and we know with the demand for [our] MC Cable, that number will grow…and this is just phase one of three.”

The new facility currently operates at partial capacity, says Susan Labadie, Cerrowire’s vice president of marketing and strategy. “But with demand being what it is, we will grow with that and expect to fill out the plant within the next two years,” she says. “And as demand continues to increase as we predict it will, we plan to add additional product lines and have the potential for even more greenfield factories in North Alabama.”

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Plant Manager Darrell Wright and Vice President Susan Labadie with Cerrowire Metal Clad Cable. Photo by David Higginbotham.

Location, Location

With the company’s headquarters and an existing manufacturing plant just down the road in Hartselle, officials say they looked at other locations and states to build their newest facility but decided to expand in Morgan County for several reasons.

“We found that Alabama was the most collaborative,” says Labadie. “Plus, Stuart has a great relationship with the [Hartselle] mayor and local economic development board.” Smallwood also served as the chairman of the Hartselle Area Chamber of Commerce until earlier this year.

In what Labadie calls a “great opportunity for the community,” Cerrowire is the first major industry to locate in the Morgan Center Business Park. Local leaders are hopeful the move will open the door for other companies to locate in the area.

“We are proud to have Cerrowire’s new plant in Hartselle and best of all, have a local company to be the first to call the Morgan Center Business Park home,” says Hartselle Mayor Randy Garrison. “Cerrowire has been a longtime Hartselle manufacturing facility as well as a great community supporter. When a current company chooses to locate a new business in their current locale, I believe it speaks well for the community.”

Hartselle Area Chamber of Commerce President Missy Evans matched the mayor’s excitement. “Cerrowire’s pioneering decision to bring their new plant to the Morgan Center brings confidence to future investors to choose Hartselle,” she says. “This will bring growth to our schools, strengthen our workforce, and provide new leadership to initiate community action. We look forward to seeing the rippling, positive, economic impact on our whole community their investment will make.”

The biggest challenge for businesses locating in the area is housing, says Schmidt. “There’s so much growth here in North Alabama…we need places for our workers to live.”

Garrison says he is “thankful” for the new jobs being created by the plant, but recognizes the need for his community’s continued commitment to improve its infrastructure and housing choices. “Hartselle is experiencing a growth in housing development,” he adds, “which I know is important for new companies locating in our area.”

And while Hartselle has been home to Cerrowire for nearly 50 years, the company celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2020. Smallwood says he’s proud of the growth and longevity of the company, sharing that only 0.5% of American companies are still in business after 100 years.

“Cerrowire is part of that rare group that has been producing and selling quality products for a century or more,” he says. “It’s one thing to say you’re still in business after a hundred years. It’s amazing to say that we’ve had a growth spurt of employees and business…contributing to a record year when we’re [more than] a hundred years old!”

Smallwood says he hopes “to continue to build on the successes of the past century and inspire each other and the next generation to make a difference at work and in the community.”

Cerrowire President Stewart Smallwood speaks at the plant opening. Photo courtesy of Cerrowire.

Up and Up and Up

Cerrowire is a copper wire manufacturing company with plants in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana and Utah. The company supplies building wire and cable throughout North America for commercial, industrial and residential use. Products, including the company’s new MC Cable, are available through electrical distributors, wholesalers and retailers including Home Depot and Menards.

The new MC cables being produced in Hartselle feature a unique, patented exterior coding system to help easily identify what’s inside the armor. Users like the system, says Labadie, which allows for easier identification and faster installation. Bold, color-coded markings indicating the gauge, conductors inside, sequential footage and the easiest direction to pull the wires, speeds up processes as well, she adds.

Plant Manager Darrell Wright moved from a competitor in Georgia to manage the new MC Cable plant. He says the plant should start producing the wires contained within the metal clad casing by September and that the entire production line should be fully operational under one roof by the end of this year — with room to grow.

“Right now, we are getting the wires from our plant just down the road and cladding it here,” he says. “But having it all here on-site will make things a whole lot easier. Right now, we produce and ship about 450,000 pounds a month. This time next year, I expect we will be shipping about 1.6 million pounds per month.”

By the end of 2024, Wright predicts phase two will be complete, adding more production lines that will kick up output to about 3 million pounds per month.

And Cerrowire’s success has boosted other area businesses, says Schmidt. “We get all of our cable reels from Sonoco just up the road here in Hartselle,” he says. “When our business was hopping during COVID, Sonoco was hopping, too, to keep up with us.”

“Metal-clad cable has quickly become the product of choice for many applications — everything needs power…houses, businesses, even vehicles these days,” says Schmidt. “We just see things going up and up and up.”

Jennifer Williams and David Higginbotham are freelance contributors to Business Alabama. She is based in Hartselle and he in Decatur.

This article appears in the September 2023 issue of Business Alabama.


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