A new cement plant being built by Grupo Cementos de Chihuahua (GCC) of Mexico will start limited operations next week, according to the chief of its American division.
Enrique Escalante said Wednesday that equipment in the roughly $300 million plant still is being adjusted and corrected, a process that will continue when production starts next week as it ramps up to full production.
The enormous facility, which includes a limestone mine and large storage buildings, is located south of Pueblo east of Interstate 25.
The plant employs about 95 people, most of whom are from the Pueblo area, Escalante said. They were hired at the beginning of 2007 and have spent the last 18 months being trained in Pueblo as well as GCC cement plants in Mexico, New Mexico and South Dakota.
Escalante said the project was delayed several months by equipment problems and a shortage of skilled construction workers. It also ran over its initial budget, mostly because of higher-than-expected steel prices. But Escalante said the overages were "not unusual for a project of this size" and weren’t serious enough to hurt the project.
A tougher challenge for the new plant will be selling cement during a commercial construction slowdown caused by the poor economy and credit problems.
"So it’s a challenge to start up the plant under those conditions," Escalante said.
But GCC has made the Pueblo plant its most technologically advanced, Escalante said. The plant will be the most efficient in the company and GCC is channeling business from other plant locations to Pueblo to take advantage of the cost savings.
"What we have been doing to plan for (the economic slowdown) is to optimize our cement system," Escalante said. "Pueblo is going to be our most efficient plant and (GCC) will ship to other places from this plant to keep it up and running."
For example, cement from Pueblo will be shipped by rail to markets in New Mexico, Wyoming and South Dakota, he said.