Former Shaw Group executives spearhead new $45M pipe fabrication facility in Livingston

Business Report

Several top executives from The Shaw Group are heading up a newly created pipe fabrication company—Epic Piping—that this afternoon announced plans to invest $45.3 million to develop a manufacturing and production facility on a 70-acre site in Livingston Parish.

The site, located in Satsuma near the intersection of Interstate 12 and La. 63, is projected to employ more than 500 people over the next several years and will include a 200,000-square-foot headquarters building, according to company and elected officials, who were on hand for an afternoon press conference to announce the project.

Bernhard Capital Partners—the private equity firm created two years ago by Jim Bernhard, who retired in 2013 when The Shaw Group, which he founded and served as CEO, was acquired by CB&I—is a major investor in Epic Piping as well as the company’s investment adviser. It is unclear what level of ownership BCP has in the company and whether Jim Bernhard will be a member of the company’s board of directors.

Though Bernhard was at the announcement today, Epic executives were anxious to deflect attention away from their Shaw Group lineage. Instead, they are trying to focus on the investment in Livingston Parish and the jobs they promise their company will bring to the area.

“Livingston has a very strong workforce, and we’ve been working closely with the leadership there for several months,” says Kent Shepherd, Epic’s president of domestic fabrication. “We felt that with the workforce there and the support we got it was the right place to be.”

Besides its Livingston Parish facility, Epic is also developing a fabrication plant in San Marco, Texas, on a site it recently acquired from a shuttered steel mill. That facility is expected to employ more than 350 people and will also represent an investment of some $45 million. Epic hopes to break ground on the Livingston Parish site in the next couple of months and be up and running by the second quarter of 2016, at which time it will be prepared to compete for large industrial customers with the biggest players in the industry, Shepherd says.

“Nobody is growing at the rate we are,” he says. “When we get up and running we’ll be able to go head-to-head with anybody, and we are looking to have international capacity as well.”

Among those competitors will be CB&I, which paid more than $3 billion for The Shaw Group and with which Bernhard and his former top brass had a two-year non-compete agreement. That agreement is now expired.

CB&I also operates a pipe fabrication facility in Livingston Parish—a plant in Walker that was run by Epic’s top executives when they were part of The Shaw Group.

Livingston Parish officials, who are praising the company for its investment in the area, say having former Shaw Group executives at the helm of Epic Piping gives them a greater level of confidence in the company than they might already have.

“We know their stability, and we know their track records,” says Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks. “Everything they’re doing here is a reflection of what they’ve done in the past. They’re looking at every possible angle of how to make this the best facility it can be.”

Livingston Parish economic development officials say Epic’s leadership first approached them last September about finding a location for the facility. The Livingston Economic Development Council worked with the group for several months on the site, which the company does not yet technically own but is hoping to close on soon. The Baton Rouge Area Chamber and Louisiana Economic Development also helped put the deal together.

“Structural materials/metals manufacturing is one of BRAC’s target industries, and we have seen several metals manufacturing companies establish operations in Livingston Parish,” says BRAC President and CEO Adam Knapp. “The market has shown a great demand for these products, and we believe that all of these companies will flourish, given the state of the regional economy.”

Besides Shepherd, Epic’s top leadership includes David Chapman Sr., CEO; Remi Bonnecaze, president of international fabrication; Tom Calamia, CFO; and Jeremy Turner, CAO and CIO. Shepherd says about 25 managers are already in place at the company.

Today’s announcement is the second in just one week involving former Shaw Group executives and Bernhard Capital Partners. On Feb. 26, BCP announced the formation of an energy services firm known only as Bernhardthat will provide energy-engineering, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and development services for commercial and industrial clients.

Epic says it will begin recruiting employees immediately. To secure the project, the state is providing the company with an incentive package that includes a performance-based grant of $1.8 million to offset infrastructure costs, as well workforce development assistance through the LED FastStart program. The company is also expected to utilize the state’s Quality Jobs and Industrial Tax Exemption programs. The jobs program provides a cash rebate of up to 6% of a company’s payroll for up to a decade, while the industrial exemption offers a full abatement of local property taxes on new capital investments for up to a decade. LED has more details on today’s announcement.

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