Stanly’s biggest story of 2023: Charlotte Pipe & Foundry opens $460M plant in Oakboro

An autopour machine carries iron across the floor of Charlotte Pipe and Foundry’s new plant in Oakboro. Image via Charlotte Pipe and Foundry.

OAKBORO — In a major development that will impact the local area for years to come, the Charlotte Pipe and Foundry Company made its long-awaited move to Stanly County this year.

Charlotte Pipe’s goal of relocating to Oakboro was made official to the public three years ago but was in the works for over a decade under the codename “Project Blue Sky.”

As the Stanly County Board of Commissioners awarded the cast-iron, plastic pipe manufacturer an economic incentive grant on May 5, 2020, state Rep. Wayne Sasser (R-Stanly) noted that the commissioners has just ensured the “largest economic impact to Stanly County that has occurred in the last 50 years.”

“This is one of these once-in-a-lifetime type projects,” County Manager Andy Lucas added. “I can’t even put into words how significant it is for our community,”

In 2023, the prospect of one of largest business developments in the county’s history became a reality.

Leaving behind a 55-acre site in uptown Charlotte that has been floated for a possible Carolina Panthers stadium one day, the cast-iron, Charlotte Pipe now employs 530 people at a $460 million foundry situated on 700 acres in Oakboro, roughly 35 miles east of the cast iron foundry it operated in uptown Charlotte for over 100 years.

“As a generational project, the relocation and expansion of our legacy foundry is a strategic move by Charlotte Pipe to improve its processes and offerings in ways that will allow the company to continue serving the plumbing industry and our community for the next 100 years,” Hooper Hardison, CEO of Charlotte Pipe, said as his company held its grand-opening event in Oakboro on Oct. 26.

“The move to Oakboro will spur growth of other businesses, including vendors who supply and support the plant, opening a new window of economic growth for Stanly County. Even better, the region is already home to many of the company’s associates who will benefit from reduced commute times and increased amenities within their work environment.”

Charlotte Pipe operates out of seven plant locations — constantly expanding since it began in the Queen City with 25 employees back in 1901 — with its newest addition being its state-of-the-art facility in Oakboro that serves as one of the most technologically-advanced operations in its field in the entire world.

The company invested $58 million in the plant’s environmental system, including a 70,000-megawatt substation that is capable of powering 70,000 houses.

“Charlotte Pipe has always been committed to investments that will benefit our associates, our customers, and our shareholders,” Roddey Dowd, Jr., vice chairman of the company’s Board of Directors, said as the Oakboro facility opened up in October.

“While our Uptown Charlotte location has provided stakeholders with a solid platform to deliver outstanding results, our new Oakboro foundry will allow a more efficient layout of our plant and equipment and give us the flexibility to expand to meet future needs.”

Along with the creation of the new facility, Charlotte Pipe included a rail spur to connect the new plant to the Aberdeen Carolina & Western Railway, a short-line railroad that crosses through the center of the state.

The ACWR is the largest privately-owned shortline railroad in North Carolina, operating in central NC through six counties along 150 miles of track. Connecting to the Norfolk Southern Railway, the railroad gives the Oakboro foundry rail access to move recycled materials to and from the Eastern Seaboard and the Midwest.

“This is an exciting time for the ACWR,” Jennifer White, ACWR president, said in an Oct. 31 media release. “This project has taken years to be realized, but the timing is perfect for the ACWR. We look forward to a long relationship with Charlotte Pipe.”

As the Oakboro foundry looks to its first full year in operation coming up in 2024, it’s worth reflecting on the amount of time and effort that went into bringing Project Blue Sky’s physical form into fruition.

During the past three years, over 1.2 million hours of labor from 500 construction workers went into the creation of the new foundry that became fully operational on Sept. 5, 2023. The hard work was put in, and now both the company and Stanly County will reap the benefits of the major addition to the local economy.