Thursday's announcement of a big Alcoa expansion has leaders in Blount County pumped up. The company will invest $275 million to add 200 permanent full-time jobs in order to meet a growing demand for aluminum in the automotive industry.
"The employees, today when we made the announcement, were overjoyed. They were clapping and cheering and it's just a great day," said Ken McMillen, Alcoa's Tennessee Operations Location Manager.
The demand for light-weight and fuel-efficient vehicles drives a growing need for strong recyclable aluminum. Alcoa will be increasing its rolling mill on East Hunt Road in Alcoa to
meet demand for recyclable aluminum sheet.
"It's into a market that we see a great growth opportunity in, in terms of the use of aluminum in the automotive industry," said McMillen.
The expansion will create 400 construction jobs and 200 full-time jobs once the expansion is built. Officials said the investment of $275 million will be spread over the next three years. The project is slated to start May and be finished by mid-2015.
The announcement would be good economic news at any point in time, but is especially sweet after a few years of hardships at Alcoa's Blount County location.
"The last few years we have actually had to layoff employees, we lost the
smelting business, and sold some of our hydroelectric assets. So I do believe it is a little more gratifying today
than maybe it would have been. I do think it is more special," said McMillen.
Alcoa says the employees it had to layoff the last few years will get first crack at the new jobs.
McMillen joined several elected officials to make the announcement at the Blount Partnership office in Maryville. As the company celebrates its 100th anniversary, there is optimism Alcoa will be able to look forward to future success rather than simply relishing in heydays gone by.
"I think it puts Alcoa right back there where they were in the 50s and
60s as one of the premier absolute best things that Blount County has
going for it," said Ed Mitchell, Blount County Mayor. "We're all happy. To watch this happen with Alcoa is exciting
because it's like something good happening to your family."
"It's like we have an old trusted friend coming back even stronger even bigger, and even more technologically savvy," said Tom Taylor, Maryville Mayor.
Governor Bill Halsam also weighed in on the announcement by praising the long-time aluminum company.
"I want to thank Alcoa for its new investment in East Tennessee and for 100 years of incredible service in Blount County," said Haslam. "Our Jobs4TN strategy identifies key industry clusters where Tennessee holds a unique competitive advantage, and we are grateful Alcoa is expanding its presence and joining in our state's continued growth in the automotive sector. This is another step toward Tennessee becoming the No. 1 state in the Southeast for high quality jobs, and adding these jobs is a great way to celebrate an anniversary."