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7/12/2017 11:47:00 AM
Alcoa to partially restart Warrick smelter, add 275 job

John Martin, Evansville Courier & Press

The Alcoa Warrick Operations will re-open three of the five potlines it shut down in its smelter operation in 2016, adding back 275 jobs in its facility along the Ohio River east of Newburgh.

The company said the move will "further improve the competitiveness of the on-site rolling mill," which creates flat-rolled aluminum for food and beverage packaging.

The company says the three lines should produce some 161,000 metric tons of aluminum per year for the mill. The process to restart the three lines will begin immediately and is expected to be complete in the second quarter of 2018.

The smelter, which went into operation in 1960, shut down in March 2016. The company announced the closure about three months prior to that. Some 600 people were working in the smelter at the time, and Alcoa officials then said 325 would be laid off, with others accepting employment elsewhere, or taking severance or retirement packages.

In a news release, Alcoa officials said they appreciated "the actions the Trump Administration has taken to address the challenges faced by the U.S. aluminum industry, including Chinese overcapacity. As Warrick Operations restarts aluminum production, Alcoa is confident the Administration will continue to be attentive to the industry's needs."

Boonville Mayor Charlie Wyatt, who started working for Alcoa at age 19 and spent 41 years with the company, was thrilled with the news.

"I've been praying for this since my first City Council meeting," Wyatt said. "Thank God, thank God. We're just rejoycing and thank the good Lord for blessing us with this. It's been in my prayers weekly."

From the state's side, the  Indiana Economic Development Corp. and Warrick County offered preliminary assistance to support the restart plan, according to Alcoa's news release. The IEDC offered Alcoa up to $2.4 million in conditional tax credits and up to $100,000 in training grants based on plans to add new full-time jobs for Indiana residents.

As part of the smelter's restart, Alcoa Power Generating Inc. and Vectren announced an agreement to jointly own and operate the coal-powered Warrick Unit 4 generating unit that provides power for the smelter and rolling operations. The agreement runs through Dec. 31, 2023, according to the news release.

“Restarting the operations of the smelter is a significant economic development win for our community, including the creation of 275 jobs, and we were pleased to play such an important role in helping make this a reality,” said Carl Chapman, Vectren chairman, president and CEO. “This six-year contract aligns well with our previously announced long-term electric generation strategy, and the expected exit from our joint ownership and operation of Unit 4 at the end of 2023 is consistent with our plan to bring online a new natural gas-fired power plant by 2024 and install additional renewable energy resources through 2020.”

Alcoa has long been closely identified with Warrick County, and Shari Sherman, director of the Warrick County Chamber of Commerce, said the news is welcomed.

"It is great for Warrick County, Alcoa, the workers and all businesses, because it means jobs will be coming back and new jobs will be created, and that is always a good thing. Alcoa is firmly planted in Warrick County and is a great asset, one of of valued partners."

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Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR


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