In 2002, when Charles H. Entrekin temporarily
exited the domestic titanium industry, the number of attendees
at the International Titanium Association's annual conference
in Orlando, Fla., totaled fewer than 425.
He's back in the industry now and recently
was elected president of the trade group at its 2007 annual
meeting, which also was held in Orlando. If there is one single
statistic that reflects the industry's transformation during
that five-year gap, it is the number of people who showed up at
this year's meeting 1,050.
Entrekin rejoined Titanium Metals Corp.
(Timet) Jan. 1, 2007, and is now president of global operations
and chief operating officer of the company working out of its
Morgantown, Pa., facility. When he left Timet five years ago,
the industry was still reeling from the impact of the Sept. 11,
2001, terrorist attacks, and it wasn't until well into 2004
that the first signs of a recovery emerged. There was a general
consensus then that another sponge plant would probably never
be built in this country.
Today, the industry is coming off a record
year in domestic shipments, with this year's outlook at least
as strong, buoyed by such new programs as the titanium-rich
Boeing 787 commercial airliner. Both of Timet's main rivals,
Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Technologies Inc. and RTI
International Metals Inc., Niles, Ohio, are planning new
greenfield front-end facilities, while Timet, which after Sept.
11 was the only domestic sponge producer, said earlier in the
year that it was evaluating a brand-new sponge plant at an
as-yet-undeclared location. Moreover, these companies and
several others have embarked on various projects aimed at
expanding downstream operations.
As newly elected president of the ITA,
Entrekin-a Ph.D. who was instrumental in the development and
application of electron-beam cold-hearth
technology-acknowledges that he speaks for "an industry that's
healthy and where most people are doing well. That's reflected
in the strength of the audience."
During his hiatus, Entrekin was with private
equity firm Safeguard International Fund, serving as managing
director of London & Scandinavian Metallurgical Co. Ltd. of
Britain and president and chief executive of Toronto-based
Timminco Ltd. Today, as the top operating officer at Timet, one
of the world's largest producers, he occupies a role in the
industry different from that of his predecessor, Edward Sobota
Sr., president of privately held Tech Spec Inc., Derry, Pa.,
who made it one of his goals to promote the role of the smaller
Entrekin said he's no less eager than Sobota
to boost ITA's "mom and pop" members but also cites the
"additional challenge" of globalization along with tighter
disclosure rules for larger, publicly owned companies via
Sarbanes-Oxley and other regulations. (Coincidentally, it was
recently announced that Timet would join the Standard &
Poor's index of the 500 largest U.S. companies.)
Another ongoing challenge is to "promote the
role of titanium as the metal of choice in a lot of
applications," Entrekin said, pointing out that more downstream
uses in particular need to be developed. One example
applications that require welding. He said titanium still has
the largely undeserved reputation in some quarters as an exotic
material for welding but thinks that more education will help
erase this image.
However, one thing he isn't spending much
time fretting about is the likelihood that the industry will be
facing another slump anytime soon. "We're not planning for a
recession," he said. "We're planning for next year's conference
in Las Vegas to be bigger and for the year after that (when the
conference will take place in Hawaii in a gesture to Asia's
growing role in titanium) to be even bigger."