Thousands attend Chart open house

People file into the new Chart “Building 22” and marvel at the size of the building and the tanks inside. (Chuck Kajer Photo)

Chart Industries in New Prague opened its doors to area residents Friday, June 28, celebrating the grand opening of their 111,000 square foot addition and the 50th anniversary of the founding of Minnesota Valley Engineering, which became part of Chart Industries in 1999.

Employees past and present, their families and other guests, flocked to the sprawling complex and toured not only the new production facility, but the older facilities as well.

Bruce Lyman, Vice President of Facilities and Development, welcomed several hundred people to a ceremonial ribbon cutting at the south entrance to the new “Building 22.” Standing to the south of the building was a 150-foot long, 100,000 gallon tank produced by Chart over the past year. The tank was one of the first to be finished in the new facility, using the sand blasting and painting booths to finish the tank, which is one of a set of four being built locally and destined for Canada.

Lyman said the new building was designed for such tanks, and amounted to a $23 million investment in the New Prague facility.

“It was built on an aggressive schedule and despite the weather, it was finished close to the scheduled date,” he noted.

Lyman went over some of the statistics for the new building. It includes 9,000 tons of steel and there was 150,000 yards of earth moved to build the structure.

Tom Carey, president of the DNS division of Chart, said that of the products produced by Chart “there are none better engineered or of a higher quality than those in New Prague.

“You hear a lot about how the US is not able to compete in manufacturing. Our investment in New Prague shows that that’s not true.”

After the ribbon cutting, guests filed into the new facility and marveled at the size of the building, including the two 75-ton cranes and more.

A number of Chart retirees were on hand to see the latest addition to the New Prague campus. Linda Lambrecht, a 28-year veteran who was one of the first women certified welders, and later became quality control manager, and Don Preslicka, a 35-year veteran who also worked in quality control, shared some of their memories with Fred Simon, the current Quality Control manager.

Bill Jirik, a retired plumbing contractor, recalled working on the original building 50 years ago.

“I was working for Bob and Ralph Rynda, and we plumbed the first building here. We thought that was a big building,” he said, marveling at the size of the new addition.

Visitors to the open house were treated to a variety of foods. One of the most popular was “cryocream,” root beer floats made using liquid nitrogen to freeze the ice cream.

Roger Hansen, Vice President of Bulk Gas Products for Chart, is in charge of operations at the New Prague facility. He estimated Friday’s crowd at about 3,000 people, and said everything went well.

He said Chart began using the new facility about a month ago, and continues to move equipment in and ramp up production.

“Not everything is ready, but we have been sandblasting and painting, and we’re still getting things moved in.”

“The outpouring of support from the local community was overwhelming,” Hansen said. “We were happy to open up the facility for all to see.”