Sources: CP staff; CalStar Products, Newark, Calif.
CalStar Products capped a 20-week production ramp-up for its Fly Ash Brick and Pavers with the Jan. 11 ribbon cutting at a plant equipped for 40 million units/year. Dedicating the Caledonia, Wis., facility, CalStar CEO Michael Kane told a group of about 100 distributors, material and equipment suppliers that brick production--once a state staple--had returned to Wisconsin. He credited site selection and construction schedule to Wisconsin Energy Corp., whose nearby Oak Creek station is supplying Class C ash central to the CalStar process; and, $2.45 million in U.S. Department of Energy tax incentives rooted in the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, one of whose supporters, Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) topped the dedication ceremony's guest list (see companion item following).
After reviewing CalStar's recycling and low-energy process value propositions and business plan calling for five additional fly ash-based unit masonry lines across the country over the next five years, Kane led a tour of the 63,000-sq.-ft. Caledonia line. Occupying an existing shell, it is equipped similar to a concrete-paver operation: molding and compaction machinery, steel pallet-handling and retrieval devices, masonry-enclosed kiln, and semi-automated cubing. CalStar's proprietary process is based on an ash-rich mix design, yielding units whose curing requirements are considerably less energy-intensive than those for conventional clay products.
The operation will initially focus on basic brick and paver profiles CalStar unveiled at the 2009 Greenbuild Expo in Phoenix; future product development will include roof tiles as well as additional building and hardscape units. Caledonia is launching with a payroll of 35, climbing toward 50 at full production. Plant staff will dispatch by mid-February a premier commercial order to Tallahassee, Fla., where local builder K2 Urbancorp has specified CalStar Fly Ash Brick for retail and restaurant facilities at its center-city Evening Rose development.