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Benteler to shut Mich. site in auto revamp

Keywords: Tags  Benteler Automotive, Benteler Group, steel part forming, plant closure, Grand Rapids, global restructuring, Maryam Komejan, seamless tube mill Corinna Petry

CHICAGO — Benteler Automotive Corp., a subsidiary of Germany’s Benteler Group, plans to close its Grand Rapids, Mich., factory by the end of March 2014 as part of a global restructuring of its operations.

The facility produces structural vehicle components such as door beam supports and steel pillars.

"The reason for closing is entirely strategic," company spokeswoman Maryam Komejan told AMM June 21.

"It is our oldest plant (in North America), not as flexible for our needs and also underutilized. We are consolidating those operations into Kalamazoo, Mich., and Goshen, Ind.," she continued, with the bulk of the roll-forming, stamping and related equipment relocating to Kalamazoo.

"It is not a downsizing but a restructuring of facilities to make better use of our space across our North American operations. This is not a situation of declining revenue," but a redistribution of assets, Komejan said. "The other plants have space for (Grand Rapids’) equipment and a better process flow" in which to operate them.

She couldn’t say how many steel-formed parts the Grand Rapids plant makes annually.

The factory employs about 220 workers. They will have an opportunity to accept job openings at other plants in western Michigan, including Kalamazoo and Holland.

"In some cases, it is a bit far (from Grand Rapids) but workers can apply to openings that fit their skills. There is plenty of time for us to help as many of our workers as possible to get jobs inside the company or outside the company," Komejan said.

"We are growing, but this plant was not functional. (The closure) is part of a larger restructuring going on globally," she said.

Benteler said in May that it would eliminate up to five plants around the world, cutting 1,800 jobs, and has begun a process to close a facility in Opelika, Ala. Roughly 100 workers will be affected there.

Some other North American plants have been expanded, and Benteler is prepared to seize on growth opportunities, including greenfield sites as required, Komejan said.

Separately, the company’s Steel/Tube unit recently forecast rising volumes and market potential in U.S. energy exploration. It said last October it would build a seamless tube mill near Shreveport, La. (, Oct. 26).

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