Novelis Inc. today unveiled a newly completed $200 million expansion that has added more than 100 jobs to its aluminum manufacturing plant in Oswego.
The expansion has increased the company's capacity to produce aluminum sheet for the automotive industry by 240,000 tons — five times the company's previous capacity in North America.
"What you're seeing here today is the start of a huge transition," Novelis President and CEO Phil Martens said during a ceremony marking the commissioning of the addition. "This shows a commitment to the industry and the area. We aim to be the leader in automotive sheet, and we are."
The expansion has added 182,000 square feet of space to a factory that was already pretty sizable at 1.4 million square feet. With the new jobs, Novelis now employs 850 people at the Oswego plant, the largest Novelis facility in North America. The company is Oswego County's largest manufacturer in terms of the size of its facility and the size of its workforce.
The Oswego area could use the new jobs. At 8.8 percent, Oswego County has the fourth-highest unemployment rate among New York's 62 counties.
L. Michael Treadwell, executive director of Operation Oswego County, the county's economic development arm, said the expansion was "huge" win for the county because of the jobs it has brought and the commitment Novelis is making to the plant, which celebrated its 50th anniversary just a few weeks ago.
"It's the largest manufacturing investment in Oswego County in many, many, many years, at least since the 1980s, and it may be the largest in Central New York in the past decade," he said.
Treadwell said the company plans to soon start construction on an 81,000-square-foot, $45 million facility for recycling scrap aluminum from automobile makers.
Atlanta-based Novelis began construction on two new high-performance aluminum processing lines in Oswego in 2011 in response to increased demand from automobile makers. The lines recently went into operation.
Novelis is the world's largest producer of aluminum automotive sheet, which is used to make structural components and exterior body panels. Its aluminum can be found in more than 180 vehicle models around the world.
Marco Palmieri, president of Novelis North America, said automobile makers are turning to aluminum because of its strength and light weight. The light weight will help car manufacturers meet new government and consumer demand for greater fuel efficiency, he said.
"More and more, consumers are demanding cars that stretch their gas dollars," he said.
The Oswego plant is the company's largest, wholly-owned fabrication facility in North America, producing more than 1 billion pounds of aluminum sheet each year. In addition to automotive sheet metal, it makes aluminum sheet for the beverage can and building and construction industries.
The state of New York gave Novelis a $5 million grant for the expansion. In addition, the Oswego County Industrial Development Agency has agreed to give the expanded portion of the factory property tax discounts for 20 years.
Oswego isn't the only place where Novelis is expanding. It is building a new plant in Changzhou, China, that is expected to begin production in mid-2014 and will have a capacity to produce 120,000 tons of aluminum a year. In addition, the company recently began production at a plant in Gottingen, Germany, which will ultimately add 40,000 tons of additional capacity.
Novelis also makes aluminum automotive sheet in Kingston, Ontario; Sierre, Switzerland; and Nachterstedt, Germany.
Alcan Inc. opened the Oswego plant in 1963. Novelis spun off from Alcan in 2005 and was acquired in 2007 by Aditya Birla Group, a multinational conglomerate headquartered in Mumbai, India.