Congressman John Moolenaar toured a high-tech Alma machine shop Monday, where 147 area residents are employed making die-cast aluminum parts for cars and trucks.
“This is how I learn to be an effective advocate for you,” Moolenaar told Shiloh Industries executive Mark Hebert, plant manager Joe Bowen, Marketing and Communications Specialist Brittny Thayer and others at the plant on Adams Street south of Superior.
Moolenaar seemed genuinely interested in the manufacturing processes at Shiloh, stopping often to examine this or that part as a group including this reporter toured the plant.
Shiloh Industries is much bigger than the 72,000-square-foot Alma shop with 18 other facilities in the US and more in Europe and Asia. It was founded in 1950, went public in 1993 and employs 4,200 people worldwide. Shiloh stock (SHLO) trades on the NASDAQ exchange, closing at $7.43 per share on Monday.
“We make products that make cars lighter, safer and quieter,” said Hebert.
Shiloh customers include Ford, Honda, Nissan, Subaru, Porsche and General Motors.
Although Shiloh makes parts out of many different alloys, including magnesium, the Alma plant specializes in cast aluminum parts. Aluminum bars are trucked it to be melted at 1,300 degrees and turned into parts, of which 20,000 are shipped out of town every day. This reporter opined that the heating process must involve oodles of electricity. Bowen acknowledged that, and Moolenaar added that the cost of electricity will soon fall, as utility companies must reduce charges to compensate for savings under the recent tax reform in Washington.
Parts made in Alma are ultimately delivered to General Motors and automotive subcontractors Nexteer, Metric Manufacturing, BorgWarner and GKN. Of those four subcontractors, the first three make parts for GM. The latter makes parts for Nissan.
Employment has boomed at Shiloh over the last two years, as it went from 85 employees two years ago to 147 today. Most of the new jobs were entry level positions requiring little advance training.
The need now is for people trained in electronics, hydraulics, tool and die work and other specialities, Hebert said. “There’s a skilled trades gap. Everyone’s aware of it.”
Shiloh employees range in age from 19 to more than 60, with the vast majority falling between ages 20 and 59.
Thirty six of them have at least 20 years with the company. The average base wage is $41,200 per year.
And Shiloh is still growing. Plant Manager Joe Bowen said the company intends to spend $4.7 million upgrading the Alma plant this year alone.
Bowen, by the way, is a local success story, having graduated from Ithaca High School in 1999.