Manufacturing

A steel plant opens in a small Idaho town

The plant employs 39 people and could expand to a staffof 150, its manager says.

(IDAHO FALLS) POST REGISTERAugust 13, 2013 

0813 BI Cives Otter.JPG

Gov. Butch Otter, center, tours the plant with CEO Richard ­Connelly, left, and General Manager Ben Merkling. “(We asked), ‘Do you really care about the city of Ucon that you’re moving ­into?’” Otter said at a grand-opening ceremony. “We are satisfied that they do.”

MONTE LAORANGE — Post Register

UCON — One year ago, the mayor of this town of 1,100 people north of Idaho Falls had never heard of Cives Steel Co.

On Aug. 7, Mayor David Blain welcomed 200 people — including the company’s top administrators, its 39 full-time employees and their families and Gov. Butch Otter — to celebrate the opening of Cives’ 52,000-square-foot plant.

“It’s hard to believe we’ve gone from ... a farm field to this facility,” Blain said.

Cives produces custom steel structures for projects such as high rises, stadiums, power plants and hospitals. The Roswell, Ga., company employs about 1,000 people at six plants in six states, all east of the Mississippi River. This is its first plant in the West.

CEO Richard Connelly says the company also intends to expand its business in the Southwest to complement the work it’s doing at the Idaho plant. When that expansion is complete, Connelly says Cives would be the largest steel-fabrication company in North America.

“Our first meeting here, people said this would be a filthy, dirty operation,” he said at the dedication. “But now they come in here and see (the) opposite.”

Idaho Department of Commerce Director Jeff Sayer says Cives has made every effort to assuage residents’ fears about noise and views that may be blocked by the plant.

“They actually had a sound analysis done with all of the machines going at the same time, the loudest the plant could be,” Sayer says. “They had a meter outside that read the noise was at a conversation level right next to the plant.”

In February, the Department of Commerce helped the company apply for an $85,000 property-tax exemption. In a March 18 letter, Bonneville County commissioners denied the application because of a lack of information about the company’s eligibility under Idaho code. The commissioners said they’d be willing to reconsider the exemption once the company could demonstrate the eligibility requirements could be met. Commissioner Roger Christensen says the company has not reapplied.

General Manager Ben Merkling says the plant will employ machine operators, engineers, welders and others. About 10 of the 39 employees have transferred from other Cives sites. The rest were hired from Idaho.

As the steel market increases, Merkling says, the plant will grow.

“We’re going to build the world from right here in Ucon, Idaho,” Otter said.

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clords@postregister.com

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