Alcoa rolling mill expansion to add 200 jobs

Alcoa rolling mill expansion to add 200 jobs, $275 million investment

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Alcoa Tennessee Operations Location Manager Ken McMillen discusses the plant expansion at a media briefing. Alcoa Tennessee Operations Location Manager Ken McMillen discusses the plant expansion at a media briefing.

By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

ALCOA (WATE) - A $275 million investment by Alcoa in its Blount County rolling mill operations will add 200 permanent full-time jobs in the next three years.

An announcement of expansion of the facilities on East Hunt Road was made Thursday morning by Alcoa officials, Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Economic and Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty.

The expansion will take place on the North Plant and the company says the first to be considered for the jobs will be those laid off just four years ago.

In 2009, there were several rounds of layoffs when the South Plant closed.

"We maintain an active list of employees that were laid off when the smeltering curtail occurred a few years ago. That list was originally was around 400 employees. We're now below 100," said Ken McMillen, the Alcoa Tennessee Operations Location Manager.

For the city named after the aluminum company, the expansion brings a sense of relief.

"It adds a lot of optimism in the community because when 500 people get laid off, you know how a community feels," recalls Mayor of Alcoa Don Mull.

Mayor Mull, along with Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell and Maryville City Mayor Tom Taylor spoke at a press conference praising the expansion on Thursday.

"It's an incredible thing for the community," Mull said.

McMillen says the new jobs will be a mix of trade and technical positions.

"Obviously we feel with the workforce in the area, we feel quite a few of the jobs will be filled locally, but we will be posting for several of those jobs on a national basis," he said.

Alcoa is the leading producer of aluminum. The plant in Blount County creates aluminum for cans for the beverage industry.

Company officials cited a growing demand for light, durable and recyclable aluminum sheet used in automotive production as the reason for the expansion.

"More and more auto producers are turning to aluminum to increase the fuel efficiency and quality of their vehicles. We anticipate a quadrupling of auto sheet volume by 2015 and a tenfold increase by 2025," Alcoa Chairman and CEO Klaus Kleinfeld said in a statement released Thursday morning.

When work to expand the Blount County rolling mill plant is completed, company officials anticipate it will be a key supplier to both the packaging and automotive markets.

Alcoa has already secured long-term supply agreements from automotive manufacturers to justify the expansion project.

"Obviously for us we think it's a market that has a lot of future growth potential. We certainly hope this will be the first of several installments in terms of growing in the automotive industry," McMillen said.

The ground breaking is expected to begin later this month with the construction work adding another 400 jobs. The expansion is expected to be complete by 2015.

Hiring for the long-term positions is expected to begin by the end of this year.

"This is long term for this community," Mayor Mull said. "Alcoa has been here 100 years and hopefully another 100 years more."

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