Timken Co. officially breaks ground for a $225 million expansion at its Faircrest steel plant. It’s the largest in a string of projects to upgrade specialty steel production at the Faircrest plant.
Elected officials and Timken Co. executives touted it as proof that manufacturing jobs are returning to Ohio.
Monday morning the company officially broke ground on a $225 million expansion at the Faircrest steel mill that includes the first jumbo bloom vertical caster in North America.
It’s a symbol of rebirth in American manufacturing, Chairman Ward J. “Tim” Timken Jr., said Monday, then added: “But rebirth is only the appropriate word if you believe manufacturing went away.”
Timken Co. kept manufacturing here, turning out tapered roller bearings and steel, Timken said. Since 2006 the company has announced investments totaling nearly $500 million aimed at improving local steel production.
The company already is constructing a $35 million forge press, designed to enhance the consistency of Timken’s special bar steel. It has finished an ultrasonic test inspection line that cost $5 million. The vertical caster is the key piece to the new project, along with a ladle refiner.
Manufacturing is coming back to America, Gov. John R. Kasich told the crowd.
“And it ought to be back in America. That’s because Americans make things better than anybody else,” Kasich said.
BETTING THE FARM
The expansion at Faircrest comes 30 years after Timken announced plans to build the steel mill on farmland south of Canton.
Timken credited his uncles and grandfather for being visionary and bucking the trend of moving manufacturing out of Ohio. Instead, the company invested $450 million to build a modern steel mill.
“They bet the farm with that investment,” Timken said. “We have proved the critics wrong.”
Timken’s steel sales in 2011 reached $2 billion, or nearly triple the company’s total annual sales during the early 1980s. The company melted 1.7 million tons of scrap steel, the equivalent of about 1 million junk cars, and turned out nearly 1 million tons of steel.
Expanding Faircrest’s capacity will increase the plant’s capacity by 25 percent. Faircrest also will produce a broader range of large-diameter bars.
Three key markets — mining, oil and gas drilling and mechanical parts — are driving increased demand for Timken steel, said Salvatore J. Miraglia Jr., steel operations president. “Existing markets are rebounding and growing.”
PLENTY OF HELP
The expansion didn’t come without help.
Joining a cadre of elected officials on the dais and making comments were Joe Hoagland, president of United Steelworkers Local 1123, and Dennis Brommer, a Steelworkers subdistrict director. They helped negotiate a union contract that paved way for the project.
Hoagland read contract language noting the long relationship between Timken and the Steelworkers. There have been difficult moments, he said, but the two sides have found ways to work together.
“It’s the compromise that comes out of collective bargaining, the fruit, if you will ... ,” Hoagland said.
Page 2 of 2 - Timken officials thanked the union, Kasich and the Ohio Department of Development for taking steps that made the expansion possible.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, commended Kasich for “doing in Ohio what they should be doing in Washington, D.C., balancing budgets and creating jobs.”
OIL ONE REASON
Increased drilling of shale rock formations — the Utica in eastern Ohio and the Marcellus in Pennsylvania, for example — has led to more demand for Timken steel, Miraglia said. About 25 percent of the steel Timken produces is used in drilling to make bits and other equipment.
With that in mind, Portman noted that the federal government should stay out of the way and not create regulations that might hinder future drilling. “The government needs to create a better climate for growth.”
After the ceremony, Portman spent time with reporters fielding questions about speculation that he is being considered as a running mate by Mitt Romney — the likely Republican Party presidential nominee.
Portman repeated comments he’s made about helping Ohio and Romney by remaining in the Senate. After being asked several times about whether he’s been offered the No. 2 slot on the ticket, Portman finally told reporters, “I’m not going to go there.”
WHAT THEY SAID
A parade of speakers had a few moments Monday morning at groundbreaking ceremonies for the expansion of Timken Co.’s Faircrest steel mill. Here’s what they had to say.
Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich: “This company’s had a vision for all these years, otherwise they wouldn’t be here.”
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman: “We need to find ways to work together to be competitive globally.”
Dennis Brommer, United Steelworkers executive: “We commend Timken for investing... It means a lot to this area, this community.”
U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, 16th District: “Timken again is engaging if opportunity for the district.”
U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, 7th District: “This investment will be hear for another 100 years.”
Ohio Speaker of the House William G. Batchelder, R-Medina: “What a remarkable family and business Timken has been for the United States of America.”