The start of the year has seen several large investments from companies in the automotive and steel industries that bring with them hundreds of new jobs.

General Motors announced in January that it will invest $918 million in four U.S. manufacturing sites, including $854 million to prepare these facilities to produce the company’s sixth-generation Small Block V-8 engine and an additional $64 million in Rochester, N.Y., and Defiance, Ohio, for castings and components to support EV production. These investments will enable the company to strengthen its full-size truck and SUV business and continue to support the company’s growing EV product portfolio.

The highlights included a $579 million investment in its Flint Engine Operations in Michigan to prepare the plant to assemble its sixth-generation Small Block V-8 gas engines along with the related block, crank and head machining; and a $216 million investment in Bay City GPS in Michigan to prepare the facility to build camshafts, connecting rods and block/head machining supporting future V-8 production at Flint Engine Operations.

 GM Plant

 GM’s Flint Engine Operations in Michigan (Photo courtesy of GM)


GM, however, wasn’t finished. In early February, the company announced a joint investment with Lithium Americas Corp. to develop the Thacker Pass mine in Nevada, which the companies say is the largest known source of lithium in the United States and the third largest in the world. Under the agreement, GM will make a $650 million equity investment in Lithium Americas, which expects the project to create 1,000 jobs in construction and 500 in operations and estimates the lithium extracted and processed from the project can support production of up to 1 million EVs per year. Production at Thacker Pass is projected to begin in the second half of 2026.

Moving on to the steel industry, North American Stainless (NAS) announced in late January that it will proceed with a $244 million expansion to its production facility Ghent, Ky. The expansion will boost the company’s total capacity by 200,000 tons annually, a 20% increase, and add 70 new jobs. NAS will build a new cold-rolling mill and temper mill; upgrade its annealing and pickling lines to support the new rolling mill; and expand its melt shop to include a 400-metric-ton crane.

 Bri-Steel Manufacturing, a North American manufacturer of large-diameter seamless steel pipe, is building its second Thermal Pipe Expansion (TPE) mill in Enid, Okla. The Edmonton, Alberta-based company will employ between 50 and 100 people once in full production. The facility will produce seamless carbon steel and alloy steel pipe in sizes 12-36 inches in wall thickness up to 3 inches thick. Bri-Steel has started to procure manufacturing equipment for the plant. Production should begin by the end of the year.

 solar Solar Atmospheres of Michigan’s new facility in Chesterfield, Mich. (Image courtesy of Solar Atmospheres)  


News from the Heat-Treating Industry

Since the purpose of this editorial is to highlight positive investments, let’s take a quick look around the heat-treating industry.

Solar Atmospheres of Michigan, formerly Vac-Met, recently purchased 18,000 square feet of plant space on over 4 acres in Chesterfield, Mich. The new building is 20 miles northeast of the two existing Vac-Met facilities in Warren and Fraser. The over $5 million investment gives Solar Atmospheres of Michigan the space to locate its employees and equipment under one roof while continuing to grow. In addition, two new vacuum furnaces were purchases from Solar Manufacturing for the move.

Bob Hill, president of Solar Atmospheres of Michigan, said, “We are working feverishly in 2023 to prepare and equip this new facility to make it our fifth state-of-the-art vacuum heat-treating and brazing facility in the United States. Once all of the electrical, water cooling and specialty gas utilities are installed, we will strategically relocate the nine existing vacuum furnaces to their new home.”

Industrial furnace manufacturer AFC-Holcroft, following an extensive full-facility remodel, held a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony at its world headquarters in Wixom, Mich. A dedicated testing and development area specific for process control equipment was created, allowing a virtual environment where furnace process-control functions can be developed, simulated and tested prior to being deployed in the field. In addition, investments in IT infrastructure were made. New technology was added to support the latest in video conferencing and improve the security of IT infrastructures.

And in news from just north of the border, the Government of Canada invested over $9 million in aerospace manufacturer Cyclone Manufacturing Inc. The investment will help Mississauga-based Cyclone expand all four of its facilities in Ontario in order to become more productive and competitive. The expansions will include a heat-treatment oven at its Milton facility and a temperature-controlled production area at one of its three Mississauga facilities. The project will support 110 jobs in the region and enhance Cyclone’s ability to create new and larger parts.

So far, so good to start 2023. Let’s hope this trend of investment and job creation continues throughout the year.