Moving forward on Pueblo plant

Moving forward on Pueblo plant
Published: 06 April 2006

GCC of America is going forward with a cement plant, executives said Wednesday during a visit to Pueblo. They said negotiations over electricity rates continue, but will not block the project. Construction is expected to begin in coming months, though a specific timetable remains under review, company executives said.

The US$225m plant is to be built south of Pueblo and will employ upward of 450 workers during its peak building phase. The plant will employ approximately 90 permanent workers. Enrique Escalante, president and chief executive officer of the El Paso-based company, said GCC is ready to move forward even as negotiations continue on the final hurdle of electricity rates.

Escalante said GCC will continue to negotiate with wholesaler Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, and San Isabel Valley Rural Electric Cooperative. The company is seeking rates in line with the prices charged at its New Mexico and South Dakota plants, a lower price than San Isabel initially offered, he said. Neither side has released detailed price comparisons.

Escalante said the electricity cost is critical to the project. Electricity, along with coal, are the major costs of operating the plant, he said. In thanking Pueblo County commissioners for their support of the project, Escalante addressed the ongoing talks over electricity rates. "While this critical aspect of the project must still be resolved, we are nonetheless pleased to inform you that we are committed to going ahead with the construction of GCC’s Pueblo facility," Escalante said.

He said the timing of the groundbreaking for the plant construction remains uncertain, but confirmed that a groundbreaking ceremony will occur within several months. The company recently signed a US$55m contract with FLSmidth, to build the cement processing equipment for the Pueblo plant. GCC also is close to finalizing an agreement with its main contractor, The Industrial Company of Steamboat Springs.

GCC already has invested US$20m in the project. The money went for legal costs and an already-constructed US$3m storage building, as well as preliminary work related to roads, water wells and a rail spur. Despite the years of setbacks and lost opportunity to sell bulk cement during a global shortage, Escalante said the company has never faltered in its "desire to develop a strong partnership with the Pueblo community."