Back in Business: Aluminum plant reopening; 450 jobs returning to the area
MARSTON, Mo. — The aluminum business is returning to Southeast Missouri.
Magnitude 7 Metals formally announced Friday its plans to begin aluminum production at the former Noranda Aluminum smelter at the St. Jude Industrial Park and the return of 450 jobs. According to Bob Prusak, CEO, production of one line will begin in May followed by a second production line next fall.
Bobby Alexander of Hayti, Mo., is one of 140 workers already busy preparing the site for the start of aluminum production.
Alexander, who was employed by Noranda for 26 years before it shut down in March 2016 and put some 900 people out of work, called Friday a special day for Southeast Missouri.
He went on to praise the plant’s new owner.
“It seems like we are under really good leadership,” he said. “The guy that is going to be running the place I have seen him with his boots dirty and everything, so it kind of makes you feel like he is one of the guys. I am proud to be out here.”
Earl Grissom of Lilbourn, Mo., also is a part of the new work force and new to the aluminum business.
In the first month on the job, Grissom said he has worked cleaning and repairing the plant.
“It has been dirty and grimy but it has been worth it because we know jobs are going to be opening back up real soon,” he said. “That the jobs are coming back to our community and that this plant brings the economic value of our community back up, I’m super excited to be out here and I love it.”
The economic value of the jobs and how it will benefit the entire region was touched on by several speakers, including Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens.
“We are bringing back today over 450 jobs with an average wage of over $64,000 a year.
These are quality jobs. Jobs that you can raise a family on. Jobs where you can put aside some money for your kids for school. Jobs where you can put down a down payment on a house. Jobs where you can set aside some extra money for a vacation,” he said. “These are quality jobs that we are bringing back to southeast Missouri.”
In announcing the company’s plans to produce 160,000 metric tons of aluminum annually, Prusak praised President Donald Trump’s leadership and policies, including tariffs on imported aluminum and steel that Trump announced Thursday.
“These tariffs will also enable us to look at five additional projects here at the smelter that could result in an additional 450 jobs being brought back here,” he said to the cheers and applause of the crowd.
Eighth District Congressman Jason Smith said the tariffs will level the playing fields with countries such as China and ensure national security by maintaining a strong aluminum industry in the United States.
“We have to thank President Trump,” Smith, a Republican, said adding under Trump’s leadership there were also major tax cuts, a reduction in regulations and lower energy prices. “Now, with the president’s commitment to new, fairer trade deals, we are bringing back the domestic aluminum and steel industries and with it, jobs.”
Don Rone, who represents the 149th district, which includes the local plant, pointed out the number of young people in the audience. He said good paying jobs such as those announced by M7M will enable young people to remain in the area following graduation.
“That is what we are here for folks. It is not for the gray hairs like me,” he said. “I’m all about kids.”
Also speaking were Rob Dixon, the director of the Missouri Department of Economics and
David Tudor, CEO of Associated Electric Cooperative, which will be providing power for the aluminum smelter’s operation.