Hitachi expansion smaller than planned
By Karissa Minn
CHINA GROVE ó The new Hitachi Metals operation in Rowan County will be smaller than planned because expected partnerships fell through, according to a company official.
Hitachi Metals North Carolina announced in late December that it will add 65 full-time jobs and invest about $60 million over the next four years at a ferrite magnet manufacturing plant in China Grove.
But the company had told Rowan County Commissioners that the project would create 148 jobs and $71.6 million in investment.
Pat Barton, president of Hitachi Metals North Carolina, said in July that the company planned to enter a new joint venture that mines rare earth materials. Its China Grove facility would process them into alloys, which it would then use to make powerful rare earth magnets.
Those plans have changed, Barton said Thursday, because the company could not come to an agreement with potential partners.
ěThat joint venture didnít come to complete fruition, so we will not be doing one phase of that operation in our factory here,î Barton said. ěWe will be producing final product ó rare earth magnets ó we just wonít be doing the first part, which is production of the alloy.î
Barton said a supplier has agreed to provide raw materials for the plant, located on Hitachi Metals Drive of N.C. 152.
Salaries will vary by job function, but the average annual wage for the new jobs will be $43,108 not including benefits. The countyís average annual wage is $36,036.
ěI just think itís great that Hitachi Metals in Japan has decided to continue on with this project,î Barton said. ěIt shows confidence in the local people to do the job in this high-tech business.î
Based in Tokyo, Japan, Hitachi Metals is a multinational corporation that specializes in high technology, machinery and public infrastructure.
Since 1990, the companyís North Carolina subsidiary has operated a plant in Rowan County that produces arc-segment magnets for use in motors.
Soon, it also will manufacture neodymium magnets engineered primarily for use in hybrid and electric vehicles. Barton said the magnets also can be used for wind power generation and many other applications.
Hitachi already produces these Neomax magnets in Japan and China, he said, but it is expanding production to more easily supply American automakers. Though not the first, China Grove will be the only location in the United States where this type of magnet is made.
Rowan Countyís incentive agreement says Hitachi North Carolina will get 75 percent of the tax revenue generated by the project, calculated each year for five years starting in 2013.
But the county offered the grant based on Hitachiís original proposal, and its incentives are performance-based.
Robert Van Geons, director of RowanWorks Economic Development, said recently that the grant amount paid will be reduced according to the drop in jobs and investment numbers.
Hitachi actually is spending $18 million more than planned for the remaining part of the operation, Barton said Thursday. The total for the project is still less, because equipment for raw material production wonít be included.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
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