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Growth spurt at Steel Dynamics

$27 million project to add 40 jobs

Millett

Steel Dynamics Inc. is on the fast track to expansion, launching more than $100 million in investments in two projects – just weeks apart.

The Fort Wayne-based steelmaker Tuesday announced plans to invest almost $27 million and create 40 new jobs at its Columbia City operation.

The announcement comes on the heels of news that Steel Dynamics has earmarked $75 million for a major expansion to its rolling capacity in Pittsboro, just west of Indianapolis.

CEO Mark Millett said the central Indiana project will broaden the company’s product range and diversify the mix it produces at its Columbia City mill, which will create the feedstock – or raw material – for Pittsboro’s expanded engineered bar products operation.

The Whitley County plant now primarily makes heavy structural beams.

According to Tuesday’s statement, the company will install what officials described as a “state-of-the-art” heat-treating system in Columbia City.

The system will allow Steel Dynamics to produce up to 350,000 tons of standard strength and head-hardened plain, carbon steel rails for the railroad industry.

Site preparation will begin immediately.

Company officials expect to order mostly U.S.-made equipment – including some made locally – before the end of 2013. Full production is expected in early 2016.

Steel Dynamics’ new process will allow it to manufacture 320-foot-long rails, as compared to the 80-foot rails made by the company’s domestic competitors.

Longer rails require fewer welds per mile, which reduces costs and the chances of weld-related problems.

“Our rail customers have encouraged us to expand our product offerings to not only include head-hardened rail, but in these longer rail strings, thereby enabling our customers to reduce their cost of rail maintenance and replacement,” Steel Dynamics’ CEO said in a written statement.

On Oct. 17, Steel Dynamics reported third-quarter earnings of $12.8 million, or 6 cents per diluted share, on net sales of $1.7 billion.

The steelmaker employs more than 6,500 in facilities including five steel mills, six steel-processing plants and more than 70 metals-recycling locations.

The company’s shares closed Tuesday at $12.53, down 38 cents in trading on the Nasdaq stock market.

sslater@jg.net

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