Lakeshore, Manufacturing, and Real Estate

Aerospace supplier invests $16.7M in expansion

December 12, 2014
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Aerospace supplier names West Michigan its global HQ
Alcoa Power and Propulsion’s global headquarters in Whitehall produces jet engine components. Courtesy Alcoa

An aerospace supplier plans to undergo a $16.7-million expansion that will position it to further capture growing demand for advanced jet engine parts.

Alcoa Power and Propulsion in Whitehall, a unit of lightweight, high-performance metals leader Alcoa in New York, said yesterday that it’s doubling its high-tech coating capacity at its local operation.

Construction will begin this month, and production is expected to begin in 2016.

The expansion will create 25 full-time jobs.

Alcoa said customer agreements “underpin the new capacity.”

The expansion

The 7,700-square-foot building expansion will be located at Alcoa's Thermatech plant in Whitehall, where it produces thermal-coated parts that enable engines to run at higher temperatures, boosting engine efficiencies. The coating also extends the operating life of jet engine parts by protecting against oxidation and corrosion.

Alcoa will install a new “electron beam physical vapor deposition machine” to boost capacity, which enables faster production by combining two important processes: the bond coat and the top coat.

Alcoa said the combination of the advanced coatings and internal jet engine cooling schemes make it possible for its investment-casting-produced airfoil blades to operate in an environment that reaches temperatures "much greater than the airfoils’ melting point."

In addition to jet engines, the coating process is applied to parts used to build industrial gas turbines.

“This expansion will enable us to continue providing our high level of service as we meet growing demands for our high-tech Thermatech-coated parts that enable enhanced fuel efficiency,” said Mike Pepper, president, Alcoa Power and Propulsion.

Alcoa is the largest manufacturing company in Muskegon County and is “home to the most advanced aerospace manufacturing facility in the world,” said Ed Garner, president and CEO, Muskegon Area First Economic Development Corp.

Growth strategy

The expansion supports the company's strategy of profitably growing its aerospace business, which achieved revenues of $4 billion in 2013 and is in line with company strategy to build its “value-add businesses to capture profitable growth in high-growth industries.”

Alcoa projects a compounded annual commercial jet growth rate of 7 percent through 2019 and sees a nine-year production order book at 2013 delivery rates.

Incentive

The state’s marketing arm, the Michigan Economic Development Corp., awarded a $285,000 state business development grant to Alcoa for the project.

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