From the Port Huron Times Herald

 

July 31, 2006
Section: A-Section
Page: 1A, 2A

Local businesses buck state's economic trend
Craig Davison
Staff
Times Herald

By CRAIG DAVISON

 

Times Herald

Things are beginning to look up for the county as unemployment numbers have dropped and industries such as manufacturing are growing.

 

ALD Thermal Treatment will bring its new Port Huron plant on line this week; PTM Corp. announced a $3.2 million expansion; and Schefenacker Vision Systems USA Inc. in Marysville plans to spend $1.1 million to build a new warehouse. Combined, the projects mean about 100 new local jobs. The trend may continue in St. Clair County, officials said. Doug Alexander, executive director of the Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County, said five more announcements about local business expansion are expected in the next two months. "We're seeing an upturn..in the manufacturing sector with the existing companies and potential new start-up operations," Alexander said.

 

The latest numbers from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics show unemployment in St. Clair County dropped from 7.9% to 6.1% between April and May. The numbers mark the first time the county's unemployment has dropped below 7% this year.  It also brings the county's numbers closer in line with state unemployment statistics which hovered near 6% in May and June.  "Historically, we're above the state average in unemployment," Alexander said.  In July 2005, St. Clair County unemployment was at 8.9% - more than two percentage points higher than Michigan's 6.7%.  Since 2000, there have been 17 months where the county unemployment rate showed a significant gap - two or more percentage points - when compared with the state.  The last time the county's unemployment rate was lower than the state's was May 2004. It stayed lower than the state's average for one month. "I don't think it's a rebound across Michigan," Alexander said. "We just happen to be one of the counties that I think are doing better. I think we're fortunate that some of our companies are getting new contracts." Alexander said that although the numbers are looking better, especially compared to the 1980s when Michigan had an all-time high unemployment rate of 16.9%, things aren't great. "I don't want to paint a rosy picture here," Alexander said. "Things are not as good as we'd like them to be. But on a historic basis, it's not as bad as they have been."

 

Diversification

Something that may further help the region's economic woes and may sound a bit unnatural to an "Automation Alley" is diversification - local companies making more than products just related to the auto industry. Diversification, officials said, can help stabilize the area.

"I think that if you diversify the economic base of the area, itís less susceptible to cyclical problems," Alexander said.

 

There are signs local manufactures are beginning to look outside the Big 3, and other automotive companies, for success. Although ALD Thermal, which will start production Tuesday - primarily on transmissions for General Motors - they will be able to attract aerospace customers once up to full speed, administration manager Kristine Tremble said. Tremble said the company will have four ModulTherm furnaces - which makes things such as transmissions stronger - when they reach full capacity. By then, she said, the company will have hired about 60 more employees. Now, about 30 people work at the plant.

 

Times Herald photos by KEITH KING

By KEITH KING, Times Herald

 

From The Monty Heat Treat News - July 14, 2006

 

ALD Thermal Treatment, Inc. Open House. To celebrate the opening of their newest facility in Port Huron, Michigan, ALD is hosting an Open House on Wednesday, July 26th, 2006 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at 2656 24th St., Port Huron, Michigan for a ribbon cutting ceremony, tour, and lunch plus other activities later on in the day. The following day, July 27th will feature a number of very distinguished speakers including Dan Herring (The Furnace Doctor), Craig Darragh, Timken Company, Rohith Shivanath (Stackpole, PM parts and a top notch fellow that we have known for years), Bob Binoniemi Dana Corp (don't know him but we're hoping he's a nice guy), and two other fellows from ALD Germany.

 

 

From The Monty Heat Treat News - July 31, 2006

 

ALD, Port Huron, Michigan. Best known as a German manufacturer of new heat treating furnaces, in particular Vacuum Carburizing furnaces ALD has over the past few years been branching out into commercial heat treating. Currently they have three commercial heat treating locations, the first in Limbach-Oberfrohna, Germany, the second in Blythewood, SC and the newest location, which concerns us today, Port Huron, Michigan, USA. All three commercial operations go under the name ALD Thermal Treatment, Inc. and all three follow basically the same business model. Each is set up as a brand new operation specializing (but not limited to) vacuum carburizing and basically serving one large customer who is in close proximity, in the case of Port Huron they will be processing transmission gears for General Motors.

This background brings us to our news item for today, which is the grand opening of the Port Huron facility. July 26 and 27th ALD hosted an open house which must have included 100 invited guests, a ribbon cutting ceremony, guided tours of the plant and a number of technical speeches given by individuals from ALD but also Dan Herring (The Furnace Doctor), Timken and Dana. Also in attendance were a number of people from AFC/Holcroft (ALD's partner in North America), General Motors, "The Monty.com", Dry Coolers and a number of others whose acquaintance we never did make. All in all it was informative, fun and well organized. July 31/06

 

From The Monty Heat Treat News

ALD Thermal Treatment. This German based manufacturer of new heat treating furnaces also gets involved in commercial heat treating, mainly vacuum carburizing but also processes such as Ion Nitriding and Vacuum heat treating. Over the years we've told you about their facilities in Germany and Blythewood, SC, today we'll tell you about their newest venture in Port Huron, Michigan (1 hour north of Detroit and directly across the St. Claire River from Sarnia, Ontario, Canada). Construction of this plant started a number of months back and as of today a number of systems are installed, tested and scheduled to start full production by June of this year. At a start up cost of over $10 million US you get what you would expect, an absolutely top notch operation with the latest and greatest of everything. In the photos below you see the initial systems, 2 Modu Therm Vacuum Carburizing furnaces with a total of 5 treatment chambers which will be expanded to 12 in the near future. While the plant will service a number of different customers the main focus is transmission components for the new GM 6 speed transmission. Operations Manager will be Robert Peters, formerly with Stackpole in Mississauga, Ontario one of the largest captive vacuum carburizing shops in North America (PM Transmission parts).

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News release from the Times Herald in Port Huron, Michigan

 Port Huron gains plant, 95 new jobs
City beats out Ontario, Ohio for auto supplier

By ERIN KOSNAC
Times Herald



Port Huron's Industrial Park is getting a new tenant - and more than 90 new jobs.

On Wednesday, ALD Thermal Treatment Inc. announced plans to open a plant in the former Takata-Petri complex.

The Blythewood, S.C., company provides advanced vacuum heat-treating services in processes for precision automotive parts such as transmission gears, shafts and bearings. The Port Huron plant will work on gears used in General Motors Corp.'s new six-speed, front-wheel-drive transmissions.

ALD President Tony Wu said the plant should have about 45 employees by this time next year and 95 by mid-2007. Wu expects to start hiring late this year or early next year, with full production starting in May 2006.

The company will invest about $22 million in equipment for the plant.

Pamela Garcia of Port Huron works daily with people who are unemployed. She also has friends and relatives who are looking for work, all without much luck.

"Anything that's going to bring more jobs here is a good thing," she said. "We already have a lot of plants in Port Huron, but there are still so many people without work."

Wu said Port Huron was a good location because of its proximity to Canada and Detroit. But he said the point that pushed Port Huron ahead of competing locations in Ontario and Ohio was all the work done by the Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County and city officials.

"We weren't even very serious about Port Huron, but they came on strong late in the game," Wu said. "And we think this is going to be a great place for us."

The EDA put together an incentives package for the company including property-tax abatements, a $915,000 Michigan Economic Growth Authority Grant and state financial assistance for training new employees. The City Council on Monday will vote on allowing the city to buy the building, which would be leased to the company.

"According to our targeted-industry study we had done about a year ago, this is the kind of company that will work well for us," EDA Executive Director Doug Alexander said. "This is the kind of auto supplier that's looking favorable long term."

ALD has the plant in South Carolina. Its parent company, ALD Vacuum Technologies, has a location in Hanua, Germany. Wu said the Port Huron plant will have 20 to 24 furnaces compared to 10 at the other locations.

Contact Erin Kosnac at (810) 989-6276 or ekosnac@gannett.com.

Originally published May 19, 2005