Kaiser Aluminum Moving Into Midlink

October 22, 2008
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Kaiser Aluminum Corp. is bringing a new $80 million billet casting and extrusion facility to Building A in Midlink Business Park in Comstock Township, east of Kalamazoo.

The state-of-the art extrusion facility is a key component of Kaiser’s $244 million growth initiative, according to CEO and Chairman Jack Hockema. California-based Kaiser Aluminum makes fabricated aluminum products for aerospace and high-strength, general engineering, and custom automotive and industrial applications. 

Kaiser will lease about 435,000 square feet in Building A and eventually as much as 500,000 square feet, said Ron Kitchens, president of Southwest Michigan First. Kaiser is in the process of hiring 150 people to staff the facility, which is what it will need to begin production. Kaiser spokesman Geoff Moordock some of the initial hires include an electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, human resources manager and plant controller. He said Kaiser will be in full production about a year from now. As to Kaiser’s investment, Kitchens estimates the building improvements will cost between $10 million and $15 million and the equipment in excess of $50 million.

“Interestingly, Kaiser is already in the community, investing in social causes and contributing to philanthropic opportunities in the community,” Kitchens pointed out.  

Kaiser had looked at multiple sites in multiple states before settling on the Midlink Business Park location. Southwest Michigan First competed for its attention by bringing together the information on both the site location and community infrastructure, Kitchens said. It eventually got down to choosing the site here versus one in Ohio.

“Michigan was actually very aggressive in courting Kaiser Aluminum and offered some great partnership opportunities,” said Kaiser spokesman Geoff Moordock. “The location was also central to our customer base.”

Southwest Michigan First worked with its partners at the township and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to put together a package of incentives to compete for Kaiser’s business, Kitchens said. Additionally, Kalamazoo Valley Community College documented that Kaiser could get good employees and that KVCC could provide the specific training needed to ensure the new Kaiser employees would have world-class skills. The company received a state tax credit valued at $3.7 million over 10 years, and the Kalamazoo-St. Joseph Michigan Works! pledged up to $280,000 in employee recruitment and job training assistance. 

“When we talk about an aluminum extrusion plant, it is easy to envision a 50-year-old technology, but this equipment is computer-driven and as high tech as that in any computer chip plant, so it takes very high-tech workers to operate the plant,” Kitchens explained. 

The Kaiser project is a great example of how Michigan’s inherent strengths, coupled with its innovative economic development incentives, can attract new corporate investment and new jobs, noted MEDC President and CEO James C. Epolito. CQX

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