Barberton is a big beneficiary of Alcoa Inc.’s growing aluminum wheel business.
Company representatives, along with local and federal politicians are scheduled this morning to announce plans for a $21 million expansion of the Barberton Alcoa wheel facility.
The investment – involving new energy-saving technology to be used in recycling scrap aluminum chips – will help to keep 350 full-time manufacturing positions in the city, as well as create 30 additional jobs, aluminum company officials said.
Barberton Mayor Bob Genet said the investment is especially significant in a town and region hit hard by job losses in the Great Recession that followed years of manufacturing job declines.
“We’ve just come out of the worst recession since the Great Depression and now we can lay claim to these positive projects ... and this is an older, urban community,’’ he said.
Genet was referring to not only the Alcoa growth, but also a plan revealed last month by Summa Barberton Hospital to build a $17.3 million emergency department that will be triple the size of its current ER.
Tim Myers, president of Alcoa’s Wheel and Transportation Products division, based in Cleveland, said he campaigned within Alcoa Inc., headquartered in New York City, to have the investment made in the United States rather than at division operations outside the country.
The wheel division “started here in Ohio and I have very good technical people here who know how to make wheels,’’ he said.
Alcoa’s wheels end up on trucks, buses and recreational vehicles. The wheels are made in Cleveland and machined and finished at the Barberton plant.
The planned 35,000-square-foot facility, to be completed in the second half of 2012, will be the first of its kind in North America and will use new technology aimed at reducing energy consumption and cost to make billets – long cylinders of aluminum – from remelted scrap aluminum left over from manufacturing processes.
Recycled aluminum will be trucked from Barberton to Alcoa’s Cleveland operations and some of it will be shipped to an Alcoa plant in Mexico.
Myers aid the exporting of aluminum from Barberton will show “we certainly can compete and invest in global manufacturing here in Northeast Ohio.’’
Myers said financial incentives, including a state tax break and an anticipated federal tax credit, helped him make the case for an expansion in Barberton. The incentives “decreased the risk of doing this [new facility] in Ohio.’’
Myers said the company has a leading position in aluminum wheels but it is an increasingly competitive market, with many U.S. wheel manufacturers lowering costs by moving production jobs offshore. “A lot of the wheels are imported,’’ he said.
Myers said the technology to be used in the Barberton expansion involves capturing heat thrown off by industrial processes to make energy. He said the plant will consume 25 percent less energy than the traditional aluminum recycling and casting process.
He called the Barberton project a “green’’ expansion because the new technology will reduce the amount of fossil fuel the company consumes, thus reducing carbon emissions.
Scott Wagner, who heads the nonprofit Barberton Community Development Corp., said the company hopes to get a substantial New Market Federal Tax Credit, which targets projects in low-income communities.
Wagner said local officials teamed up with company representatives last fall to secure the credit, and other financial incentives.
“We are fortunate to be located in an area with an abundance of collaboration,’’ he said. Incentives include a state tax credit valued at more than $45,000 over seven years.
The announcement of the expansion will be made at a 10:30 a.m. news conference at the company’s plant at 842 Norton Ave. Scheduled to speak are Myers; U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Lorain; U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Copley Township; Genet; and Summit County Executive Russell Pry.
The Barberton plant is known as B&C Research and was formerly part of a family of companies known as B&C. The plant was jointly owned by Alcoa and B&C before becoming solely owned by Alcoa as B&C emerged from bankruptcy last year. Employment has grown from about 100 to 350 over the past year, Genet said.
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or at email@example.com