by Jack Weatherly
Pittsburgh-based American Specialty Alloys issued a news release Monday saying that it is planning to build a $1.2 billion, aluminum mini-mill “in the Southeastern United States.”
While not naming the exact location in the release, the company has applied with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality for permission to prepare a site on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway at Columbus.
The 1.4 million square foot plant will annually produce 600 tons of flat-rolled aluminum used in the manufacture of vehicle bodies, a trend boosted by the decision to use aluminum in the manufacture of the 2015 Ford F-150 pickup. The switch from rolled steel to aluminum will be done in order to meet more-stringent environmental standards.
The first phase of the plant is expected to be completed in late 2016 and will employ between 650 and 850 when full operations reached six months later. About 2,000 construction jobs will be created.
The release has a 662 area code, which is primarily for north Mississippi, and a Columbus prefix. A call to American Speciality Alloys was not returned. According to an Associated Press story, the company incorporated in Mississippi in March and has listed a Columbus address.
The Mississippi Development Authority declined to comment on the project on Tuesday, but Gov. Phil Bryant said at a gathering at the Madison County Economic Development Authority gathering Tuesday at the at the Country Club of Jackson he could not make “any specific comments about an ongoing economic development issue. However I can say that this is a very exciting proposition for the state of Mississippi.”
The first aluminum F-150 rolled off the assembly line last week at Ford’s Rouge factory at Dearborn, Mich., where Henry Ford began building the Model A nearly 90 years ago.
Robby Wilbur, spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, said that two air permits were pending for the company, and that construction could not begin until they are issued.
The aluminum F-150s are expected to arrive in showrooms in December.
Steve Graham, Internet manager for Gray Daniels Ford in Brandon, said Tuesday that he had just returned from Memphis, where he and other dealer representatives attended a seminar introducing the new F-150.
He said he was impressed with the strength of the new body, which he said is stronger as well as being lighter than rolled steel.