The new plant shows Timken's confidence in the local operation, a corporate official said.
By DON SHILLING
VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR
VIENNA -- A Taiwanese steel executive stood out among the local dignitaries congratulating Timken Latrobe Steel Distribution officials at a ceremony to open their new plant.
Ing. Hsing-Shih Chen flew 22 hours Wednesday to attend the ceremony Friday at the Vienna Township plant and deliver an ornate porcelain dragon to company officials.
Top customer: The plant is the top customer of Gloria Material Technology Corp., so Chen, company president, has been watching since it was acquired by Timken in 1996. The local business, which used to be known as Ohio Alloy Steels, has improved since then and the move to the new plant clearly shows Timken plans to expand, he said.
"Gloria is willing to work with you to go further," he said at a ceremony outside the plant.
On a tour of the plant, Scott Boyd, general manager of Timken Latrobe Steel Distribution, showed how room was left inside the plant and offices for expansion.
For now, however, the slowing national economy has had its effect on the plant, which processes and distributes steel that is used to make equipment for tool and die machines and molding machines.
Slow this year: Boyd said business has been slow so far this year, but he is confident that the plant will work through the difficulties.
The plant has about 100 workers, which is the same it had when it was in Youngstown. In receiving state and local incentives, company officials said they intended to add 27 workers within three years.
Tim Timken, vice president of Canton-based Timken Co., said the tough economic times have forced it to close plants in England and Columbus and sell a plant in Ashland, Ohio.
Plant closings are difficult, but a company can succeed only where it has the highest-quality, lowest-cost products, he said.
That combination of quality and cost is what makes Timken Latrobe a success and why company officials were willing to invest $8.2 million in a new plant, he said.
"To make an investment like this in these economic times says a lot about our confidence as a company in Timken Latrobe Steel Distribution," he said.
Out of room: Timken officials said they needed a new plant because they were out of space in the Youngstown plant. The former Wean plant was designed for the production of heavy machinery and wasn't suited for Timken Latrobe's processing work.
The new plant allows the company to receive steel plate and round steel bars at one end and smoothly move them through cutting, boring and other processing operations until they reach the shipping docks at the other end.
Boyd said Timken, which is known for its highly engineered bearings, acquired the local plant because it wanted a distribution arm for its Latrobe Steel division, which makes steel.
It has since added seven other distribution plants, but the local plant is the main depot that servicing those other plants.
Industrial park: Timken Latrobe is the first tenant in a new industrial park near the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport created by the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce. Thomas Humphries, chamber president, said another tenant may be announced within a few months. Delphi Packard Electric Systems has announced that it is studying placing a plant in the park off Ridge Road.