The nation's only co-op-owned utility pole plant is under new management. It's expected to double production, adding value for Texas co-ops and providing more options for other co-ops managing their pole stock and other wood products.

Texas Electric Cooperatives has forged an alliance with Koppers, the largest manufacturer of utility poles in the United States. The Pittsburgh-based company began phasing in its control of the co-op's Jasper, Texas, pole plant in April and is working on several system upgrades designed to enhance and expand the plant's product line.

"New equipment, processes and procedures translate into new skills and opportunities for professional growth for our workforce," said Johnny Andrews, chief operating officer of Texas Electric Cooperatives' manufacturing and distribution services division, headquartered in Georgetown, Texas.

In addition to modernizing the Jasper plant, the alliance will eventually expand the market for TEC's products, said Andrews. "Our production capabilities are expected to double over the next few years."

The plant has been the primary supplier of poles for the state's electric distribution co-ops, with limited sales in parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico served by Texas co-ops. A larger market footprint reduces overhead, providing opportunities for savings for both existing and new customers.

Watch a video to learn how a tree becomes a utility pole.

"We manufacture new poles at 11 separate plant locations in eight different states across the U.S.," said Barry Breede, chief marketing and innovation officer for Koppers Utility and Industrial Products. "Jasper is the largest operation we manage west of the Mississippi."

While Koppers' alliance with TEC is new, the company does business with 300 electric cooperatives in 32 states and operates 20 distribution yards nationwide.

"This provides us the ability to deliver product in a timely manner," said Breede, "We have the necessary redundancy in our production system to meet customer needs due to storms or other natural disasters."

The Jasper facility improves access to "the southwestern states to provide quality treated wooden utility poles throughout the region," said Greg Campbell, chief operating officer of Koppers utilities and industrial products division.

Besides wood products, including utility poles, railroad ties and bridge components, Koppers is also a major manufacturer of wood preservatives like creosote and chromated copper arsenate, or CCA. The chemicals are used to maintain and extend the lifespan of poles and wooden transmission structures. TEC is adding those compounds to its product line.

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