By CHRIS AGEE
MILLSAP – The site of Acme Brick's first factory reopened Tuesday morning after closing for the first time in its storied history in 2009.
"We're restarting this plant," said President and CEO Dennis D. Knautz. "This is where our company began 122 years ago and we've been making bricks on this site the entire period."
He explained the rate of new home construction fell dramatically in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, which resulted in the difficult decision to close Acme's original site.
"When the housing market collapsed in '08," he said, "we saw a 70-percent decrease in Dallas."
Knautz said the downturn resulted in the Bennett plant and 10 other Acme locations shutting down.
In 2012, though, he said the housing market's outlook turned and the Dallas area saw 35,000 new construction starts compared to a recent low of less than 20,000.
"We think the market is strong enough and the prospects long-term enough," he said. "As the markets are recovering, it's exciting to see us reopening some plants."
Though manufacturing halted in 2009, Knautz said the Bennett plant did not remain dormant.
The location contained 23 million bricks in inventory, which Acme continued to sell during the more than three-year halt in production, Knautz said. Additionally, he noted, more than 10 key employees remained on the payroll and worked locally and at other Acme plants across the nation.
"They made a personal sacrifice," he said. "Now that we're restarting the plant, they get to be home."
Staff maintained the Bennett facility during the interim, he said, allowing it to operate effectively when reopened.
The plant is currently operating at between 25 and 30 percent capacity, he explained, noting there are up to 40 employees currently working at the facility. As production increases, he said the plant could employ up to 100 staff members.
Shale is mined on site and the entire brick-making process occurs in the adjacent production factory.