Friday morning’s sunny weather ushered in an important new development in Pierce County: a ribbon-cutting event signaling the official expansion of James Hardie, a global building materials company, in Tacoma. Creator of the popular HardiePlank siding product, James Hardie has been operating a single plant in Tacoma since 1997 and recently opened another.

The second plant, which has been operating for several months and already has added 80 jobs to the local manufacturing economy, was celebrated with an event featuring Gov. Jay Inslee and Congressman Denny Heck as speakers. In a tent outside of the two plants in Frederickson’s industrial area, both lauded the quality of James Hardie products — fiber cement materials made for home exteriors that are more durable and sustainable than their wood counterparts — and praised the company’s Tacoma expansion.

“This plant represents what is working in the state of Washington,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “We’re successful because we believe in innovation, and this company has such an innovative product. We’re also successful because we believe in our community, and this company invests in its people and gives back to the community it’s in.”

Employees of the manufacturing company spend time volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, Tacoma Rescue Mission, WorkSource, and more in an effort to be integrated into the fabric of Pierce County beyond the products it makes. As for the impact of those products, Congressman Denny Heck emphasized the importance of access to sustainable materials to keep pace with the South Sound’s rapid growth.

“We have a national housing crisis — it’s impacting Pierce County for sure, but it’s also on a national scale,” Heck said. “The biggest cause of the crisis, bluntly, is an inadequate supply of housing stock. And we can’t build housing out of nothing — we need the materials, and that’s what James Hardie supplies in a spectacular way.”

The original James Hardie plant in Tacoma currently supports about 100 local manufacturing jobs. The new plant is a $187 million investment on the part of the global company, which was founded in Australia in 1888 and operates 11 manufacturing facilities worldwide.

James Hardie team members who spoke at the ribbon-cutting credited the company’s hard-working employees and innovative product design for its success locally and beyond.

“These women and men are exceptionally dedicated to the products they make and are driving forces that have made the Tacoma plant one of the best in the nation,” said Ryan Kilcullen, EVP Operations for James Hardie. “This would not have been possible without the support of the state of Washington and Pierce County.”

In time, the new plant is projected to be responsible for adding 140 manufacturing jobs, bringing James Hardie’s local employment number in the manufacturing sphere to 240 in total.