Vicksmetal opens plant with high hope

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Vicksmetal Company president Mike Inoue summed up the future of Vicksburg’s newest heavy industry Tuesday with a nod to principles followed by forebears of its parent company centuries ago.

“Our dream is to make our company grow, to make this work praised in the community and to hand over our company to the next generation,” Inoue said to about 100 people gathered to open the electrical steel processing facility at the Port of Vicksburg.

“Without your support, we cannot survive. We cannot grow,” Inoue said.

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The company will employ about 25 to produce transformer cores for manufacturers of electrical transformers and voltage regulators. Machinery will cut, form and assemble slitted electrical steel sheets into looped squares that will be baked at 1,500 degrees in three free-standing furnaces to produce finished products for the company’s customer base of transformer manufacturers. Performance tests are done to check how each core handles the magnetic field of a transformer, plant manager Roland Ryan said.

Slitted metal used to start the process will be supplied by Vicksmetal Armco Associates on Industrial Drive, half of which is owned by Vicksmetal Company, which is a subsidiary of Steel Summit Holdings Inc. Steel Summit is part of the Tokyo-based Sumitomo Corporation, holder of diversified subsidiaries worldwide under the Sumitomo Group of companies begun in 1919 and has roots dating back to 16th century Japanese industrialist Masatomo Sumitomo. The consortium includes Japanese beer brand Asahi and Mazda Motor Company, among other brands.

“Our staff is very modest, but our dream is to grow this company,” said Osamu Ishimura, senior vice president and general manager of Sumitomo’s U.S. division.

The company’s initial investment in Vicksburg totals $4 million, including purchasing the site formerly occupied by Exide Technologies and the fresh-out-of-the-box equipment. Two additional shifts are planned in the first year of operation.

Inoue cited continued U.S. energy consumption and population growth relative to many industrialized nations as factors in the company’s decision to add a facility on during a recession and global financial strains.

Feelings of praise for the company’s expansion during hard times echoed in every comment from elected officials and others at the plant Tuesday, including Mayor Paul Winfield, Port Commission dxecutive director Wayne Mansfield, Chamber of Commerce director Christi Kilroy and Board of Supervisors President Richard George.

“This will be my first time with brand-new equipment,” Ryan said. “They’ve exhibited a great deal of confidence in this area, in myself. Especially in these troubled economic times we’re (expanding) in.”

About a dozen employees of Vicksmetal Armco may work in the facility, with cross-training on every piece of equipment a prime goal, Ryan said. Job training assistance was provided by Hinds Community College and the Mississippi Development Authority.

It is the second industry to set up shop at the port in 2009. Five Stars Lighting Ltd., a lighting products parts assembler, opened in July at Port Terminal Circle.


Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at