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Cooper Steel expanding with $65 million project

Posted on Tuesday, June 25, 2024 at 3:23 pm


Cooper Steel Fabricators are known for their work on structures all around the Southeast.

The company, under the direction of Gary Cooper, CEO and Chairman of the Board, is in the process of a major construction project of its own here in Shelbyville. Some expansion projects have already been completed but there is much left to be done with expected completion in May of 2025.

Between March and June 18 jobs have been added at the Shelbyville facility with a plan for at least 121 more jobs over the next seven years.

The $65 million expansion includes:

*Construction of a new fabrication facility with a designated area for employee training

*A new bolt bay with a maintenance parts area

*Two new buildings housing robotic equipment and other operations

*Expansion of its existing fabrication facility

*Additional laydown sites for steel, trailer storage

*An expanded mechanic shop

*New fabrication offices with a breakroom, locker room, kitchen, clinic and employee parking

*A $16 million investment in new machinery and equipment

Cooper pointed out most steel factories are old with no amenities.

“We want people to go by here and say, ‘man that is a nice looking plant’,” Cooper said. I want them to think ‘they must do quality work’. ‘They must have high-paying jobs.”

All of these items projects were included as part of the Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILOT) meeting between Cooper Steel and the Industrial Development Board of Shelbyville.  Under the PILOT program Cooper Steel’s taxes are frozen at their present rate of $70,000 per year for the next seven years for property taxes. After that time the amount paid in property will increase gradually until the full amount is reached in year 14.

The industrial board unanimously approved Cooper Steel’s request. It was the first time Cooper Steel had asked for help from the City.

“The City has worked to approve the property zoning request for the expansion,’ Shelbyville Mayor Randy Carroll said. “The Industrial Development Board also approved the benefit package for Cooper Steel. The package is bases on the millions of dollars investment and the number of jobs created.

“We applaud the hard work and background of this family-owned and operated company. Cooper Steel has shown an example of growth through their excellent development and planning since their beginning in Shelbyville in 1960.”

Cooper pointed out most steel factories are old with no amenities.

“We are really excited about this PILOT program,” Cooper said. “We want to bring jobs back to Shelbyville. We are fabricating here about 60 percent of our work and subbing out about 40 percent of our work. We need to bring it back to Shelbyville or expand in other places.

“Shelbyville is my home. My love for the town and my love for the people and wanting to get high-pay jobs and better lifestyles for people here is very important to me.”

Cooper Steel was founded by Gary’s father, Kenneth Cooper.  He admits the company, which has more than 200 employees has progressed exponentially from the start on a gravel floor in a building on Depot Street.

“We want everybody to be proud of where they are working and what they are doing,” Cooper said. “I feel like we have just started. I am proud of our employees. We want the best people in Shelbyville to come and work for us.

“I want people to be happy and appreciated. We want them to have a career here, not just a job. This company is our mission. We try to treat people like they want to be treated.”

The impact of the Cooper Steel expansion is going to have a positive impact on Shelbyville for years to come.

“Cooper Steel’s expansion in Shelbyville and Bedford County is a game-changer for our community,” Shane Hooper, president-CEO of the Shelbyville-Bedford Partnership said. “Their commitment not only creates vital jobs and boosts local capital investment but also elevates our economic landscape.

“With wages surpassing local manufacturing averages, Cooper Steel sets a high standard as an employer of choice, fortifying our middle class and fostering retail growth. Their investment underscores a promising future for Shelbyville and Bedford County.”