published Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Alcoa, Viam to expand facilities in Alcoa, Tenn.

Alcoa Inc. hot mill manager Jeff Weida monitors the pre-heat line used to bring aluminum ingots up to correct temperature for processing. Alcoa announced Thursday it will expand and add 200 jobs in Alcoa, Tenn.
Alcoa Inc. hot mill manager Jeff Weida monitors the pre-heat line used to bring aluminum ingots up to correct temperature for processing. Alcoa announced Thursday it will expand and add 200 jobs in Alcoa, Tenn.
Photo by The Knoxville News Sentinel /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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Tennessee's growing automotive industry is driving more jobs to the state.

Alcoa and Viam Manufacturing both announced plans Thursday to expand their facilities in Tennessee to supply U.S. automakers.

Alcoa will spend $275 million over the next three years to add to its rolling mill in Alcoa, Tenn., to supply the growing demand for aluminum sheet for automotive production. The plant addition is projected to add 200 permanent full-time jobs, as well as 400 jobs during the construction phase.

Viam Manufacturing, a Japanese-based maker of floor, trunk and cargo mats, also announced plans for a $9 million expansion of its Manchester, Tenn., plant. The addition to the 507,000-square-foot facility in Coffee County should add 75 jobs, company officials said.

Bill Hagerty, commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, said the expansions are part of the state's Jobs4TN strategy focusing on the automotive industry.

"Tennessee's business-friendly climate and quality workforce offer unique strengths within the global automotive industry," he said.

Tennessee is home to three automoble assembly plants -- Nissan in Smyna, Volkswagen in Chattanooga and GM in Spring Hill. The state also is home to more than 900 automotive suppliers and car production accounts for about 30 percent of the state's manufacturing jobs.

Alcoa projects that its auto sheet volume will quadruple by 2015 and jump tenfold by 2025 as automakers move toward lighter aluminum parts and bodies to boost their fuel efficiency and gas mileage.

"Our Tennessee expansion is a great example of how Alcoa's edge in technology and innovation is capturing growth opportunities in our value-added mid- and downstream businesses," Alcoa CEO Klaus Kleinfeld said in a statement Thursday. "More and more auto producers are turning to aluminum to increase the fuel efficiency and quality of their vehicles."

The project will convert some of the plant's can sheet capacity to high-strength automotive aluminum capacity, as well as install incremental automotive capacity. The Blount County expansion is scheduled to begin this month and be completed by mid-2015.

The Alcoa expansion of its auto sheet production comes shortly after the company permanently closed its mothballed smelting operation.

"It is particularly gratifying to make this investment in our namesake community this year, which is both the 100th anniversary of our Tennessee operations as well as the 125th anniversary of Alcoa," Kleinfeld said.

Viam opened its first Tennessee facility in Manchester in 1998, expanding and officially moving its North American Headquarters there in 2008. Viam currently employs 487 workers.

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