Chattanooga Boiler & Tank shuts down production after 115 years

One of Chattanooga’s oldest manufacturers is shutting down production after 115 years due to an ongoing decline in coal production and industrial activity worsened this year by the coronavirus.

The manufacturing operations of the Chattanooga Boiler and Tank Co., known as CBT Manufacturing, are ceasing new production of fabricated materials at the company’s Main Street complex. The company told the last two dozen manufacturing workers still producing products on Monday that their jobs are ending and the manufacturing division will no longer fabricate tanks and boiler equipment.

“There is a lack of work in the industrial markets the company serves, an over-saturation of competition and, and, in many cases, an overly aggressive customer base,” said Marianne Pastor, a vice president of Williams Enterprises, the Smyrna, Georgia-based parent company of Chattanooga Tank and Boiler. “Production will end when the work currently in the shop is completed.”

The company will keep its field support services and distribution operations but is ceasing more manufacturing operations. The company has had about 35 to 40 manufacturing employees at its Chattanooga facility, but it has been cutting staff for several months, Pastor said.

Chattanooga Boiler & Tank Company fabricates and erects storage tanks and pressure vessels throughout the United States and ships prefabricated units around the world.

The company designs and builds both shop-fabricated and field-erected tanks, stacks, silos and pressure vessels from stainless steel, carbon steel, aluminum and exotic alloys. Chattanooga Boiler & Tank also specializes in larger, more complex shop fabricated tanks, pressure vessels, custom fabrication and other welded steel plate structures.

Pastor said the business has suffered in recent years as coal mining, oil production and industrial sales of tanks and boilers have declined.

Chattanooga Boiler & Tank Co., was founded in 1905 by E.J. Walsh, I.B. Merriam, and E.C. Patterson Sr. to serve the boiler repair and vessel fabrication needs of the Tennessee Valley. Williams Enterprises, a privately-held firm that is primarily a steel fabricator and distributor for industrial and construction firms across the Southeast, bought the Chattanooga company from Bristol Steel in 1987.

“Future uses of the facility are still being evaluated but all necessary measures will be taken to support on-going field operations,” Pastor said.

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Chattanooga Boiler & Tank Co. / Staff photo by Dave Flessner

The hourly production workers at the plant were represented by the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers union, Pastor said.

The company began in 1905 with its original location on Eleventh Street, near the current location of TVA’s Chattanooga Office complex in downtown Chattanooga. In 1915, the company moved to 1101 Main Street, where it is currently located with both an office on one side of Main Street and a production complex, warehouse and storage yard on the other side of Main Street.

The company originally worked on steam radiators that were used to heat residential homes during the early 1900’s. According to the company’s web site, the emphasis of the company at its start was routine maintenance and repair on these boilers that were heating the homes of the region. In the 1930’s and 1940’s, the focus shifted away from boiler fabrication to pressure vessel storage tanks.

“In the early years of the company, steel plates and material were unloaded and moved into the Main Street shop using a team of mules. “Pull dogs” were hooked to the sheets, and then a mule team would pull them into the shop,” the company says in information about its history. “Our reputation as a competent and efficient tank and vessel fabricator grew to the point that boiler work was de-emphasized and eventually phased out in favor of the tank fabrication and erection business. The name, Chattanooga Boiler & Tank, was left unchanged to preserve continuity with our valued customers.”


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