Muscle Shoals aluminum plant withstanding tariffs

Muscle Shoals aluminum plant withstanding tariffs
Source: WAFF (Source: WAFF)

MUSCLE SHOALS, AL (WAFF) - The President of the Constellium aluminum plant in Muscle Shoals said U.S. tariffs on aluminum imports have not harmed the facility.

Dan Minwell said the plant is passing the costs onto its customers, and has yet to see any significant decline in business as result.

“We haven’t seen that impact yet, but there is a concern. The aluminum business in general is doing quite well, and we don’t want any tariffs to impact its future growth,” he said.

President Donald Trump signed a proclamation in March 2018, imposing tariffs on aluminum and steel imports.

Despite that, Minwell said the plant has hired 100 new employees so far in 2018.

The Constellium workers turn massive quantities of recycled and scrap aluminum into large spools of new aluminum alloys.

The metal is sold to car manufacturers and beverage companies, the latter of which produce 150 billion soda and beer cans per year with the Muscle Shoals metal.

As a result, 1.2 cans in every six pack in North America gets their start in the Shoals.

As a result, 1.2 cans in every six pack in North America gets their start in the Shoals.

But Minwell said the 1,300 acre plant is not immune to national and international trends.

He said the U.S.'s poor recycling habits have reduced the amount of aluminum available to purchase, but China’s decision to slow the purchase of recyclables (including aluminum) has had the opposite effect.

Despite international waves, Minwell said the market remains strong.

A family affair

The Muscle Shoals aluminum facility opened in 1941 as a part of the World War II effort.

Minwell said since then, generations of North Alabamans have made the plant their livelihood.

“I can’t give you an exact percentage, but it’s pretty interesting how many people say ‘yeah I have an uncle who worked here, my dad worked here,’ whatever. It’s a small community,” he said.

The plant currently employs 1,200.

The tour guide who led WAFF 48 News through the facility said her husband worked at the plant, and multiple workers commented on their family ties.

One worker said he was the third generation in his family to work there, and hopes his 10-year-old son will become the fourth.

“The people feel invested in the success of the plant, so that’s very important to them,” Minwell said.

Constellium took over the plant in 2015 and has tried to give back to those employees and their community through its outreach and increased communication.

Its introduced a variety of community projects and events, from stream clean-ups to an annual Christmas Party for the workers children.

Minwell said the events give company leadership a chance to meet with the workers, and get their thoughts.

“We want to get our employees engaged in helping us make the plant better,” he said.

Going forward, Minwell said Constellium wants to expand and sell the perks of working at the plant.

The company is planning outreach to the Colbert County schools and beyond.

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