VCEDA recently closed on an up $600,000 loan to Lawrence Brothers Inc. On hand for the loan closing ceremony were, from left, Eric Young, Tazewell County administrator; Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel; Melanie Protti-Lawrence, Lawrence Brothers Inc. president; Fernando Protti. Lawrence Brothers Inc. chief executive officer; Maggie Asbury, Tazewell County board of supervisors and VCEDA board member; and Pam Warden, Tazewell County economic development manager.

BLUEFIELD, VA – March 13, 2019 — An up to $600,000 loan to be used to finance the purchase of equipment, machinery and tools to assist with an expansion of Lawrence Brothers, Inc., which could add as many as 28 new jobs to the Bluefield, Va., company within five years, was closed Thursday by the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA).

Lawrence Brothers, Inc., a manufacturing company located in Tazewell County, does heavy metal fabrication and custom metal applications for various industries, including underground mining, energy and electrical, automotive, material handling, airline and the general metal industrial goods industry. 

“VCEDA is pleased to have a role in helping Lawrence Brothers, Inc. to expand and grow in Southwest Virginia’s e-Region,” said Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director and general counsel. “Lawrence Brothers, Inc. has a more than 45-year history and its recent successful efforts to continue to grow and diversify the company’s customer base demonstrate their commitment to the region and to being a continuing source of jobs and economic growth in Tazewell County.”

“We’re excited to continue to serve the community by providing long-term employment, competitive compensation and benefits and we greatly appreciate this newly established relationship with VCEDA which is enabling us to continue to grow and diversify our business,” said Melanie Protti-Lawrence, president of Lawrence Brothers, Inc.

Lawrence Brothers, Inc. has its origins in a welding business started in 1974 by brothers Jim and Dale Lawrence in a three-car garage in Springville, where they fabricated mine battery trays for Exide Battery, now known as EnerSys. Gould Battery was added as a customer and in 1976, LBI acquired a site just outside of Bluefield and constructed a 10,500-square-foot building. Today, the company has grown to more than 80,000-square-feet of building space and 40 employees.

Protti-Lawrence, granddaughter of one of the founders, and her husband, Fernando Protti, joined the company in 2006. They now each own 50 percent of the company, with Melanie serving as president and Fernando as chief executive officer.  They worked alongside Melanie’s father, Mark Lawrence, for 13 years, learning the business and helping to develop a diversification strategy. Lawrence Brothers grew remarkably at the helm of Mark Lawrence, who dedicated his life’s work to the business, owning and operating it through 25 years of both prosperous and dire economic conditions in the region.

The Tazewell County Industrial Development Authority and Pam Warden, Tazewell economic development manager, also assisted the company in developing its application to VCEDA for project funding. 

Funds from the VCEDA loan will be used to purchase a fiber laser machine which will enhance the plant’s production capacity. Protti-Lawrence noted the laser machine will be “the heart” of new production at the plant and its continued diversification.

LBI currently holds 95 percent of the market share of mine battery trays, which are utilized in battery-powered equipment produced by manufacturers including Komatsu, Crown Battery and General Electric. 

Since the Protti’s joined the company, an increased focus on diversification has seen the company expand its business services into fields outside the mine industry. Currently, about 50 percent of the company’s customer base is mining-related. While the company still manufactures, services and rebuilds mine battery trays, it also now produces items including transformer parts, furniture platforms, forklift trays and decorative metal art.  Areas of diversification for the company include material handling equipment, energy and electrical industry, small industrial parts manufacturing, ground support and airline industry and custom metal fabrication. 

Further information on Lawrence Brothers, Inc. may be found at the company’s website at  www.lbimanufacturing.com.

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About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and Southwest Virginia’s e-Region: The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to enhance and diversify the region’s economy and help create jobs, markets Southwest Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurship. VCEDA is a unique economic development organization that manages funds for economic development projects from a percentage of the coal and natural gas severance taxes paid by coal and natural gas companies that operate in the region. Located in southwestern Virginia, the region includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton. www.vaceda.org  or www.e-Region.org.