CHARLESTON — A long-shuttered aluminum manufacturing plant in Ravenswood will receive new life manufacturing titanium products for the aerospace industry thanks to companies owned by famed investor Warren Buffett.
Gov. Jim Justice, lawmakers, and state officials gathered at the West Virginia Culture Center Tuesday to welcome BHE Renewables and Precision Castparts Corp. to West Virginia.
The two companies, owned by Berkshire Hathaway, are purchasing more than 2,000 acres at the former Century Aluminum site in Jackson County to build a modern titanium melt facility powered by solar energy.
The companies call it a first-of-its-kind renewable energy microgrid-powered industrial site, representing an investment of $500 million.
“This is another big announcement in this state that is a testimony to all the different things we do, how we are diversifying our state and moving forward in every way,” Justice said. “I’ve said over and over I’m going to take you on a rocket ship ride. “For God sakes of living, these people build the rockets.”
Titanium products from the new PCC facility will be used by the aerospace industry and other customers said Alicia Knapp, president and CEO of BHE Renewables.
“As a Berkshire Hathaway Energy company, I would tell you we are uniquely qualified to deliver this project and we’re excited to be partnering with Precision Castparts and with the State of West Virginia to deliver this project and truly revitalize Jackson County.”
Products made at the former Century Aluminum site would also be used by other Berkshire Hathaway companies, such as PCC’s Timet Facility in Jefferson County, Ohio. Timet builds parts for aircraft.
“This facility will be built and basically be the primary metal melting facility that will ultimately feed that facility in Toronto, Ohio, said Steven Wright, president of PCC. “We’re really excited to be able to start with this investment and power it with renewable energy.”
Century Aluminum was first established in 1954 and closed in 2009. Applied Partners of New Jersey purchased the plant’s assets in 2017, but the property was deeded back to the state in 2020. The value of the old Century Aluminum property is approximately $25 million.
The West Virginia Legislature passed a bill Monday during a one-day special session creating two 2,250-acre high-impact industrial business development districts. The districts are aimed at encouraging the location and construction of large-scale industrial and manufacturing plants when the facilities require access to renewable sources of electricity.
The state Economic Development Authority entered into an agreement with BHE Renewables for use of the Century Aluminum property, and a deal with PCC to create the high-impact industrial business development district and work with PCC to recruit new businesses for the site.
Mitch Carmichael, the cabinet secretary for the Department of Commerce and a former senate president and lawmaker from Jackson County, said the deal will breathe new life in a facility where his own father worked.
“When these jobs are created, it changes people’s lives. It affects families and future generations,” Carmichael said. “I found my dad’s badge that he wore for 35 years on the property. This makes a difference in people’s lives.”
In 2020, a group of Democratic lawmakers led by state Sen. Glenn Jeffries, D-Putnam, wrote a letter to several investors, including Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, encouraging them to invest in West Virginia. That led to a phone call between Jeffries and Berkshire Hathaway representatives
“When I sent the letter to Mr. Buffett, I never expected him to even look at it,” Jeffries said. “Finally, we have put a project together…The economic impact in that area is going to be huge. The downstream that’s going to come from this aeronautical company is beyond what I can express.”
The plant is expected to hire as many as 200 jobs to start and as many as 1,000 jobs once it is up and running not counting construction jobs. Del. Jonathan Pinson, R-Mason, said the facility will have apositive effect on the entire region.
“What you find is for the entire region, this is such an incredible encouragement because this is a generational change for this community,” Pinson said. “A community that once was so focused on the aluminum industry now has the ability to move beyond that to turn the page and find the niche of the aerospace industry in Jackson County and surrounding counties.”
Today’s breaking news and more in your inbox