FOLLANSBEE - Wheeling-Nisshin is going to introduce a new, highly corrosion-resistant hot dip coated steel sheet to U.S. markets in 2013.
Producing the new coating, known as ZAM, will require $28 million in equipment upgrades - a commitment company, community and government leaders said has the potential to create new jobs over the long term even as it saves existing positions.
"It's no secret they're not running at capacity right now," City Manager John DiSteffano said. "They'll be utilizing their existing people to do this. Once it's up and running and they make some inroads in the market, that's when they'll look at adding jobs."
Photo by Linda Harris
Noboru Onishi, Wheeling-Nisshin president and CEO talks about his company’s $28 million investment Friday as company chairman Fumio Oda and West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin listen.
The ZAM coating, developed by Wheeling-Nisshin's parent company, Nisshin Steel Co. Ltd., is 91 percent zinc, 6 percent aluminum and 3 percent magnesium, making the steel more resistant to corrosion and scratches, helping customers streamline manufacturing processes. Because it's long lasting and provides better corrosion resistance with a relatively light coating, it's a resource-saving product.
Wheeling-Nisshin President and Chief Executive Officer Noboru Onishi on Friday said it's a "natural extension for our current operations here in West Virginia and allows our company and employees to grow into a new area of production."
"We're spending $28 million because we see the potential," Onishi said. "The potential, we think, is great."
He said ZAM is five to 10 times stronger than existing coatings and is suitable for a wide array of end-uses.
"It's for anybody looking for higher, better corrosion resistance," he said. "Eventually, we'll be shifting from existing processes to that. It's not going to be overnight, very few people know about it yet. It will be an education process.
"We like to look into the future," Onishi added. "Japanese management philosophy is not to manage for today or tomorrow, but to ask where we will be five years from now or 10 years from now. Otherwise, we'd just be one of the companies. We like to distinguish Wheeling-Nisshin from the others."
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, in Follansbee Friday for the announcement, said he was "so pleased Wheeling-Nisshin decided to expand and invest in West Virginia."
"They have exclusive rights to ZAM, that's really something," he said, pointing out it translates into "good-paying jobs for good, hard-working people."
Tomblin said the upgrades make it "clear to us they are very committed to this operation. The investment is really about strengthening that company."
"The investment secures jobs that are here and positions the company to grow, we're very excited about that," he said. "It just makes this facility so much more viable over the long term."
Wheeling-Nisshin Chairman Fumio Oda pointed out 25 years have passed since the company's first hot dip line began operations.
"The future looks bright for Wheeling-Nisshin," Oda said, "and I'm proud to have been part of it."
Follansbee Mayor David Velegol, a chemical engineer, said many companies are cutting jobs and expenses in today's economy, which he said makes Wheeling-Nisshin's $28 million investment even more impressive.
"For Wheeling-Nisshin to come through and develop new technology, it's fantastic," Velegol said.