Insulated building block firm sets up $6m plant in Oklahoma

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ADA, OKLA. (Dec. 14, 2:15 p.m. ET) — PEI Worldwide Inc. plans to build composite insulating building blocks made of 85 percent recycled polystyrene and cement at a facility that it will open in Oklahoma by March.

“We’re jumping in with both feet. It’s taken us three years to get off the ground. Our first plant will be in Ada and we’re looking at others,” said Gifford Ludwigsen, president and CEO, in a telephone interview.

Ludwigsen, an architect, said he developed a technology and machinery to produce the Thura-Block material, which can stand up to earthquakes, floods and tornados. It is able to withstand winds of up to 260 miles an hour.

The company said its blocks will be able to reduce energy costs by up 50 percent when compared with traditional construction methods. They are competitive with traditional wood frame construction and can be installed in any weather.

He said that he looked in Texas, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma for sites for the manufacturing and that Oklahoma provided the right fit.

PEI partnered with the Ada Jobs Foundation, the city’s non-profit economic development arm, to gain Proposition 2 funds, according to a news release, and purchase a vacant building formerly used by Remington.

According to the agreement, PEI will invest more than $6 million in machinery. PEI plans to employ up to 75 people the first year with plans to expand to 275 within three years.

The city and PEI have entered into a performance agreement that provides Proposition 2 money for meeting certain employment goals each quarter.

“I am interested in taking care of the veterans, particularly all those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan,” Ludwigsen said.

The company will be also be partnering with East Central University’s Veterans Workforce Investment Program to hire employees for manufacturing, sales and installation positions.

Ludwigsen said PEI Worldwide’s headquarters is in Allen, Texas, and currently employs 9.

The Ada plant will make some other products that he will announce in the future. He said he is working on other ventures that would tailor the recipe for other uses such as insulating underground hot water pipes.