A New Foundry to Call Home
When you’ve been a family-run business for more than 120 years, where you go to work feels a lot like a second home. The people you work alongside become your extended family. And over time, the community and connections you make become as strong as iron.
For Charlotte Pipe and Foundry, this time-tested commitment to building lasting relationships has been a fundamental component of its growth and success.
Since the early 1900s, the company’s cast iron foundry on the outskirts of Uptown Charlotte has served as a central character in Charlotte Pipe’s remarkable story. From producing some of the country’s first cast iron soil pipe and fittings to playing a key role in the growth of the city it calls home, Charlotte Pipe has been customer-driven and American-made since its doors opened more than 120 years ago.
To meet today’s growing market demand, however, the company will now shift its cast iron home base to a new state-of-the-art facility in Oakboro, North Carolina, which is located about 30 miles east of Uptown Charlotte. This marks a monumental change for the company: The 700-acre site offers Charlotte Pipe the opportunity to introduce a new era of pipe and fitting manufacturing.
Charlotte Pipe has always been committed to investments that will benefit our associates, our customers, and our community.
“Charlotte Pipe has always been committed to investments that will benefit our associates, our customers, and our community,” said Roddey Dowd Jr., company owner and vice chairman of its board of directors. “Our new Oakboro foundry will allow a more efficient layout of our plant and equipment and give us the flexibility to expand to meet future needs.”
The Oakboro Foundry, which became fully operational in September 2023, employs more than 530 associates. All construction materials and supplies for the new foundry were 100% made in the USA, as are all Charlotte Pipe products.
To fully understand the story behind the new facility in Oakboro, let’s go down the pipeline and explore how a company that started at the turn of the 20th Century became the nation’s leading maker of cast iron and plastic pipe and fittings for plumbing applications.
The Grassroots of America’s Piping Infrastructure
In the decades that followed the Civil War, the United States transformed into an industrial powerhouse. Progress in manufacturing aided the advancement of technological systems such as telegraph and railroad networks, gas and water supply, and sewage systems in cities across the country.
During this era — known as the Second Industrial Revolution — W. Frank Dowd recognized a growing demand for cast iron soil pipe in the newly industrialized South. In 1901, he opened a small foundry in Charlotte to produce cast iron soil pipe and fittings. This family-owned business would play a pivotal role in shaping the plumbing landscape and contributing to the growth of the eastern seaboard of the United States.
By the 1930s, indoor plumbing and running water were becoming a more common feature in U.S. homes. As a result, demand for Charlotte Pipe’s product line grew, as did the evolving demands of the construction industry.
The post–World War II era brought about significant growth and expansion for the company, as the demand for plumbing products surged due to the rapid urbanization and housing boom in the U.S. Under the stewardship of Dowd’s son and grandsons, the 1950s saw Charlotte Pipe invest in the mechanization of foundry production processes. By the mid-1960s, the company had opened a plastics division in Monroe, North Carolina, to produce thermoplastic plumbing pipe and fittings for drain, waste, and vent applications.
Now established as a true leader in the plumbing industry, Charlotte Pipe and Foundry continued to grow throughout the following decades. Milestones included establishing an industrial plastics division to supply Schedule 80 pipe and fittings, producing FlowGuard Gold® pipe and fittings for hot and cold residential water distribution systems and developing the ChemDrain® line of pipe and fittings for chemical waste applications.
During this time, the company also expanded its manufacturing capacity, building plants in Pennsylvania, Texas, Florida, and Utah, as well as acquiring one in Alabama. In 2023, under the company’s fifth generation of Dowd family ownership, Charlotte Pipe opened its new $460 million state-of-the-art foundry in Oakboro, marking the next chapter in this American success story.
A Reinvestment in Manufacturing in the U.S.
Since its founding, Charlotte Pipe has invested heavily in its people, capital equipment, environmental control technology, and infrastructure to operate an efficient, modern, and safe foundry. It was this strategic mindset that spurred the company to decide in 2019 to replace its existing plant in Charlotte with a new foundry in Oakboro.
The Oakboro Foundry is one of the most technologically advanced foundries in the world and is a precursor to the future of competitive manufacturing in the U.S.
“At its core, Charlotte Pipe has always been focused on reinvestment in manufacturing,” said Hooper Hardison, CEO of Charlotte Pipe. “The company is a leader in investing in a local workforce and revitalizing manufacturing in the U.S., and we also take great pride in producing products that are 100% made in the USA. The Oakboro Foundry is one of the most technologically advanced foundries in the world and is a precursor to the future of competitive manufacturing in the U.S.”
The facility also reflects Charlotte Pipe’s commitment to sustainability. Through the development and construction process, the company invested $58 million in the plant’s environmental systems and controls, including an on-site 70,000-megawatt substation.
By switching from a fossil-fuel melt system to electric melt, the company will eliminate 40,000 tons of carbon emissions a year. The new plant emits a minimal amount of CO2 — 4,300 tons annually — for a facility of its size, which is the equivalent of about 1,000 automobiles.
Charlotte Pipe is also a major recycler, annually melting more than 150,000 tons of scrap iron and steel. To help better facilitate this process, Charlotte Pipe added a rail spur to connect the new facility in Oakboro to the Aberdeen Carolina & Western Railway, a short-line railroad that crosses central North Carolina. The Aberdeen line connects to the Norfolk Southern Railway, giving the Oakboro foundry rail access to transport and recycle scrap iron and steel from across eastern and Midwest U.S.
“We’re always going to reinvest in our local communities,” Hooper said. “Whether it’s being a good local partner and steward in the communities we call home or using only the highest-quality raw materials to manufacture our products, you can count on Charlotte Pipe to invest in a manner that allows us to stay competitive over the long term and remain focused on the customers we serve.”
With a facility floor plan spanning more than 11 acres, the Oakboro Foundry provides Charlotte Pipe with the space and flexibility to add to its legacy of manufacturing efficiency, productivity, and capacity. Explore the Oakboro Foundry and learn more about how Charlotte Pipe is positioned to meet America’s manufacturing demands for the next 100 years.
Explore Charlotte Pipe’s Oakboro Foundry to learn more about what makes it one of the most advanced cast iron foundries in the world.