Commercial Real Estate
Welcome to Skillet City
Lodge Cast Iron has been making cast-iron cookware in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, since 1896. Its expanded foundry shows the company’s commitment to the community.
Nestled near the intersection of Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, South Pittsburg is a portrait of small-town America. Things move at a leisurely pace in this quiet Tennessee community, where the population is tight-knit and visitors can find everything they need at the local businesses along downtown’s Cedar Avenue. Chief among the community’s businesses is Lodge Cast Iron, which has earned the town its nickname: Skillet City.
The company has made iron skillets and other heirloom cookware in South Pittsburg since its founding in 1896. With that history comes an ironclad dedication to growing with the community.
The Lodge family
The Lodge family is extensive. “Not the blood Lodges, but all the people that have helped make our company a success,” said Henry Lodge, Chairman, Former CEO and fifth-generation member of the Lodge family.
“This area has always provided an incredible workforce, great people who are willing to work hard and have always been loyal to the company,” Lodge said.
Lodge Cast Iron has been loyal to its employees, too, offering a profit-sharing program and continually investing in its workers. Lodge’s second foundry is a prime example.
When the pandemic hit, the number of home chefs skyrocketed, putting cookware—including Lodge’s cast-iron skillets—in high demand. Despite employees working overtime, the company only had the capacity to make its seven top-selling products. Expanding made sense. Although Lodge drew on various funding sources, it required gap funding to complete the project.
That’s where JPMorgan Chase stepped in, providing New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) equity for the project. Lodge’s location in South Pittsburg, a census tract with a moderate Area Median Income, made the project a great candidate for NMTC. The expanded foundry has the potential to add 100 jobs, and the project also includes enhancements to the existing foundry to help make operations safer and more efficient.
NMTC investment by JPMorgan Chase
Potential jobs added with second foundry
More production capacity
Lodge’s dedication to South Pittsburg
As its county’s largest employer, Lodge and South Pittsburg are closely connected. “What's good for South Pittsburg is good for Lodge,” Lodge said. “And certainly good for the people that work here.”
“We've got an incredible product that makes everybody feel like they’re part of this family, and as a result they’ve got a lot of ownership in it. They want it to be successful,” said Dave Magness, Lodge’s Senior Vice President of Operations.
Lodge’s increased capacity means continued growth. With its new project, the manufacturer will expand a building and add a production line. The project also includes creating a museum dedicated to the history of the pan and manufacturing cast iron, as well as adding a Big Bad Breakfast restaurant adjacent to the retail location.
“We should have enough capacity to meet the forecasted demand for the next five or six years,” Magness said. “That should enable us to max out our current operation, work on our overall efficiencies and really get after it, versus constantly building a new line and getting it started up as we’ve done the last few years.”
Although Mike Otterman is the first person outside the Lodge family to serve as the company’s CEO and president, he keeps the family top of mind.
“The predecessors from the family that I followed left a lot of breadcrumbs to where they wanted this business to go,” he said. That includes the Lodge Museum of Cast Iron, right down the street from the foundry, as well as a restaurant and plans for bigger things to come. “We’ve done it the way that the family wanted to do it, and that the community is proud of,” Otterman said. “And we’ll continue to prioritize that as we go forward.”
We’re here to help
JPMorgan Chase has been an NMTC equity investor since the program’s inception. Our designated NMTC team is here to help project owners throughout the development process, including assessing eligibility.
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