Honda Transmission Plant Bringing Jobs to Tallapoosa

Thu September 15, 2005 - Southeast Edition
Lisa Coston

Rural Haralson County, GA, 40 miles west of Atlanta, is home to approximately 26,000 residents, most of whom have either grown up with someone who worked in the thriving textile mills in and around Tallapoosa, or they have worked in the textile mills themselves.

For the past decade or so, the mills have closed their doors, forcing more than 5,000 workers to commute to other surrounding cities to find work.

But now, the American Honda Motor Company, working with contractor Global Performance of Greenville, SC, is working on a $100 million dollar transmission plant that will give Haralson and Tallapoosa an economic shot in the arm.

By the time it’s completed, the plant will generate at least 400 new jobs.

At the 350,000-sq.-ft. (32,500 sq m) Honda Precision Parts of Georgia LLC (HPPG) transmission plant, an estimated 300,000 transmissions will be built for Honda’s Odyssey minivan and Pilot SUV, which are both assembled at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama LLC, in Lincoln, AL, 60 miles west of the new Tallapoosa plant.

The state of Georgia, with Gov. Sonny Perdue leading the way, offered Honda an incentive package of about $13.7 million in tax breaks, which includes road improvements in and around the site.

The main construction contract was awarded to Global Performance, which also was awarded two other Honda projects — the expansion of Honda’s Alabama and Russells Point, OH, facilities — at the same time as the Tallapoosa contract.

Beginning its work in March 2005, Global Performance now plans and manages the project, along with hiring the 30 subcontractors needed for every stage of the plant’s construction and the land surrounding the actual building.

“We developed the schedule for the project, how we should break it down, how many subcontractors we should have,” said Global Performance Project Manager Scott Thomas.

The schedule was designed to allow enough room between contractors, keeping people from working on top of one another.

Brad Cole Construction, out of nearby Carrollton, GA, competitively bid and won the contract for the initial clearing, grubbing, scraping, grading and paving, as well as building diversion ditches and handling storm water issues.

Battling against one of the soggiest summers on record for Georgia, Brad Cole entered the first phase of the project: clearing 148 acres (60 ha) for both the plant site, and the surrounding roads.

Under the management of Global, Brad Cole adhered to a very tight schedule for completion on the first phase of the project.

“They beat a very aggressive schedule and did quality work,” Thomas said. “From July 1 to July 16, a 16 day period, we had 23 inches of rain…the tropical storms and hurricanes that ended up here, didn’t help things at all.”

Brandon Cole, project manager for Brad Cole Construction, had more than 40 people working 12 to 14 hour shifts, seven days a week to meet the strict deadlines.

“Because of what Honda is doing here, there’s a real race to get that plant opened,” added Cole. “The rain didn’t help any.”

The hard work ethic paid off, as Cole’s crew moved 1.2 million cu. yds. (917,000 cu m) of soil between March 8 and June 12, with 30,000 cu. yds. (23,000 cu m) per day being moved at peak production.

However, Cole and his team kept all the unsuitable soil onsite.

“We had to excavate out the bad soil and truck it to a designated spoil area onsite,” said Cole. “We replaced it with crushed stone from local quarries, so we’d have suitable fill material.”

The material will remain onsite although away from the main plant, and will be landscaped to blend into the surrounding scenery.

Another big obstacle in this first phase was ground water, and Cole’s group installed French drains to channel water away from the plant site.

Brad Cole used 16 Caterpillar 621 and 631 scrapers — half owned, half rented from Atlanta based Yancey Brothers — as well as Komatsu excavators and Komatsu and Cat bulldozers to scrape, grade and move the material.

Though they didn’t have to blast rock, and the scrapers and bulldozers moved the majority of soil, it didn’t mean that the job was without its real challenges.

“When we got into deep cuts, within an 800 linear ft. (244 m) distance, the grades varied in 65 ft. (20 m) elevations,” said Thomas. “In other words, it was a pretty hilly site…but we cut areas and brought it up to a certain elevation.”

Most of the cut and fill work was finished by the third week of June, and according to Thomas grading is 90 percent complete.

Handling the underground piping, inside and out, along with storm drains is Tuscaloosa, AL-based John Plott and Company.

Approximately 65 to 70 percent of the piping job is complete, and by the end of the project 7,300 linear ft. (2,225 m) of fire piping, 6,000 linear ft. (1,828 m) of domestic water piping, 9,500 linear ft. (2,895 m) of storm drains, and 2,500 linear ft. (762 m) of sanitary sewer piping will be installed within the site.

More than 15,000 cu. yds. (11,468 cu m) of concrete will be spread over floor slabs, foundations, sidewalks, curbs and other paving structures within the site and an estimated 16,000 tons (14,500 t) of asphalt, for parking lots, the circulation road and the container yards south, west and north of the plant, according to Thomas.

Birmingham’s Brice Building Company and Cumming Georgia’s Precision Pouring Inc. are handling all foundation and concrete work for Global, with Wayne Davis Concrete of Tallapoosa supplying all concrete for the job.

Crews Filled With Locals, Minorities

Using local subcontractors, as well as minority contractors was a goal that both Global and Honda used to pump up the local economy.

“Currently we have 24 percent minority participation on this production,” said Thomas. “Global and Honda both push constantly to help the local economy. We really encourage our subcontractors to buy from local vendors and to utilize a diverse work force.”

In addition to the construction of the actual plant, Honda is working with Tallapoosa officials and the Georgia Department of Transportation, to create a three-lane road, going in and out of the plant, off of Exit 5 on Georgia Highway 100, near Interstate 20 West.

Community Support

Honda, Global Performance and Tallapoosa city officials held a series of four town hall meetings to inform local residents of the construction schedule, and to discuss any traffic problems that might arise from the travel of trucks in and out of the plant site. According to Thomas, the majority of residents were happy with the new plant, even with any minor traffic delays.

“Traffic delays are definitely an on-going issue,” Thomas said. “But without a doubt, the plant is a major positive on the Tallapoosa area. Residents are excited, city officials are supportive and excited about the project. This is going to create jobs and tax revenues for the city.”

John Spoltman, vice president of HPPG, echoes the sentiments of Global Performance, when it comes to empowering local communities through Honda’s presence.

“Honda wants to be more than a local employer. We want to be a contributor to the communities and families where our facilities are located. Our goal is to be ’a company that society wants to exist.’ That means we strive to be a good corporate citizen and a contributor.”

Currently, one of the subcontractors contributing to this effort — Louisiana’s Lafayette Steel Erector Inc. — has 54 employees onsite helping to erect the steel infrastructure of the plant building, and many of them currently do not know the fate of family members stuck in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“They are working under difficult circumstances…not knowing where their family members are after Katrina,” said a concerned Thomas.

“They have been here working hard to erect the building on schedule, so they don’t know for sure what’s going on with their own families.”

Lafayette owns one of two large cranes being used on this project, the Lafayette Steel Manitowoc 888, and rents the Maxim 204 from Crane Works in Birmingham, AL.

It’s this dedicated team work, in the face of nature’s adversity — whether in Tallapoosa or Louisiana — that both Honda and Global Performance attribute the success of this project.

“Through teamwork and the dedication of the employees at Global Performance and our many subcontractors, we have been able to meet the challenges of this site, including record breaking rains, and still maintain our aggressive construction schedule,” Spoltman said.

“Hey, it’s Brad Cole, Brice and John Plott, and the rest of our contractors that really should get the credit in this. They’ve done a really great job, under really hard circumstances,” added Thomas.

If all goes as planned, the Tallapoosa plant will begin production in March 2006. CEG