A lumber company has consolidated its Gary, Blue Island and Joliet operations in the south suburbs.
Sterling Lumber Co., a 65-year-old family-owned company that makes crane mats and industrial lumber, built a new 600,000-square-foot facility in Harvey and Phoenix, Ill. The company closed down the three smaller manufacturing plants in Northwest Indiana and Illinois to open a much larger facility on a 60-acre site near three rail lines.
The company will continue to employ 117 workers, and expects to hire 50 more over the next two years, according to the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association.
Sterling Lumber started out supplying material to the steel industry in Northwest Indiana, according to a presentation company officials made to the mayors association. The company provides skids and pallets that steel service centers use to stack and haul materials.
The company expanded into civil construction projects, and later into matting that's used to support large cranes and excavators. The mats provide temporary roads or work platform at construction jobs sites throughout North America.
Sterling's mats have been used for work on Notre Dame Stadium and in installing wind turbines.
The company has grown by 500 percent since 2005, according to the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corp.
The company's matting is used by a wide array of industries, including oil and gas exploration, land restoration, event planning and marine construction. Major customers include the BP Whiting Refinery, CN Railroad, NIPSCO, Walsh Construction and Enbridge Energy Partners LP.
Walsh used hardwood lagging to keep dirt from spilling when it was rebuilding the METRA Ravenswood North Line in Chicago.
But matting has been the real source of growth, particularly over the last few years. Sterling plans to make lighter, stronger and cheaper mats at its new facility, which opened in December.