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29 jobs lost as company that converted coal byproducts finds another home

29 jobs lost as company that converted coal byproducts finds another home


CALEDONIA — CalStar Products announced Monday it is moving local production of building products to a new plant in Columbus, Mississippi, which eliminates 29 jobs here.

CalStar, 2825 4 Mile Road, makes brick pavers and other building products partly with fly ash from We Energies’ Oak Creek Power Plant. Fly ash is a byproduct of burning coal to make electricity.

CalStar Chief Marketing Officer John Stephenson said the Caledonia plant had 42 jobs until the end of production which was announced to employees Monday. The other 13 jobs will remain in the Racine area, he said, although not necessarily at the current, now overly large, CalStar facility.

“The plant will continue to maintain (its) quality assurance and testing facilities, and the majority of the front office staff will continue to support the administrative requirements for the company,” according to a CalStar news release.

Stephenson promised CalStar will retain the 13 people left here after the end of production, even though CalStar is currently moving into a new headquarters in Durham, N.C.

“Those folks are the core of this company,” he said. “They have the most product knowledge, and they are extremely valuable to the company.” But it’s possible some may later relocate to Durham, he added.

Production effective ended Monday, Stephenson said, but the affected employees will be paid for this week and next. In some cases, those affected will also receive severance pay.

Fly ash

CalStar started in Neward, Calif., in the Silicon Valley area where it still has operations. Its first plant came to Caledonia because of the proximity of the Oak Creek Power Plant and a willingness by We Energies to work with CalStar.

Fly ash is usually a free byproduct of burning coal. CalStar says that manufacturing bricks with its proprietary process requires 85 percent less energy and produces 85 percent less carbon-dioxide emissions than standard kiln-fired bricks.

The Caledonia CalStar plant, with 25,000 square feet of production space, was always considered a place to get started and test the company’s brick-making process, Stephenson said. It is being replaced by the state-of-the-art plant in Columbus which is four times larger and will employ 60 people.

“The Racine plant was always … a pilot plant,” said. “That’s where we learned our craft.

“But the plant layout was not optimal for the size of company we have become.”

CalStar is privately held and does not release revenue numbers. However, Stephenson said sales have almost exactly doubled every year in the past four years. Much of that growth is from CalStar eating into the whole pie for bricks and other construction materials.

The company now has four locations including the new headquarters and full-scale manufacturing operation in Mississippi, Stephenson said. Like Caledonia, it also has a coal-burning power plant in that area, though not as close as in the local case.

No decisions have been made about what to do with the unused part of the Caledonia plant with the shutting down of production here, he said.


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Michael "Mick" Burke covers business and the Village of Sturtevant. He is the proud father of two daughters and owner of a fantastic, although rug-chewing, German shepherd dog.

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