Launching a remelter in a downturn—and succeeding

Nov 01, 2010 | 06:10 AM | Anne Riley

They had been chewing over the idea for almost a decade.

The concept was simple—Alexin LLC executives would construct an independent large-diameter billet caster within a 240-mile radius of almost half of the country's aluminum extrusion capacity. Located in the heart of the Midwest, the remelt plant would capitalize on the wave of consolidations that had permeated the aluminum billet industry since the turn of the new millennium and draw in customers looking to diversify their supply base away from the majors. Pair that with a construction market poised to rise forever, and startup billet caster Alexin LLC made an irrefutable business case.

Irrefutable, that is, until Sept. 15, 2008.

Less than nine months after breaking ground on its $58-million aluminum billet casting facility in Bluffton, Ind., Lehman Brothers—and the global economy around it—came crashing down, casting doubt on Alexin's meticulous plans to emerge as a new entrant in the world of aluminum billet. Alexin's expected customer base had all but evaporated overnight, and the plant hadn't even begun commercial operations yet. ....

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