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Aluminum Extruder Grows, Looks Beyond RVs

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March 31, 2011 by   Leave a Comment

A $1.3 million-plus investment in a new piece of equipment will allow an aluminum extrusion company in northern Indiana that serves the RV industry to expand into a new market and ultimately create new jobs.

Hydro Aluminum Co. in North Liberty recently completed the first phase of a project that will allow the company to expand into the heavy transportation market, the South Bend Tribune reported.

The upgrade to the existing piece of equipment will streamline operations for the North Liberty plant and increase its output.

Ralph Westphal, the plant’s general manager, said the new machinery will expand cooling and quenching capabilities allowing production of heavier aluminum products.

Previously, the plant only produced smaller extrusions like window shapes for the RV market and school bus windows for its sister factory in Sidney, Ohio.

The plant has been in North Liberty for more than 50 years.

According to Westphal, Hydro Aluminum acquired the plant in 2000 from Wells Aluminum, which had been extruding alumimum since 1957. Wells’ history in North Liberty actually dates back to the mid-1940s.

“It’s been a very good investment for North Liberty,” Westphal said of the facility. “It (the investment) allows us to participate in the market for years to come.”

Westphal said the upgrade will expand the business capacity by another 30%, producing 6 million to 8 million pounds of aluminum a year.

Hydro is part of Norsk Hydro, which is based in Oslo, Norway. North American headquarters are in Baltimore.

Hydro currently has 120 employees. Westphal foresees a 15% to 20% increase in the staff as a result of the company’s planned expansion including the project later this year.

Phase two of the project, which will cost about $1.3 million, will involve the installation of material handling equipment for the larger extrusions. It is scheduled to be completed by the late part of this year, or early 2012.

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