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Published: Thursday, 6/23/2011 - Updated: 4 years ago

Michigan steel manufacturer rebounds from recession


MUSKEGON, Mich. -- Eagle Alloy Inc. is one of the survivors of the Great Recession.

Along with other Muskegon-area midsized industrial companies, the steel foundry took a beating in 2008 and 2009.

But the company and other nearby surviving area manufacturers have come roaring back from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Eagle Alloy has hired back 137 employees since December to reach a total of 400 and is in the process of hiring 50 more, co-owners Mark Fazakerley and John Workman said. The company is planning a $14 million expansion in the second half of this year and can be expected to hire an additional 150 employees.

Other Muskegon-area manufacturers that are investing or hiring again include GE Aviation (formerly Johnson Technology), ADAC Plastics, Hilite International, and Michigan Steel, said Ed Garner, president of the local economic development agency.

Muskegon's leading manufacturer, Alcoa Howmet, also is hiring, and employment has reached nearly 2,300, company officials said.

Not every Muskegon County manufacturer survived the recession. The number dropped 11 percent to 271 at the end of 2010 from 306 at the beginning of 2006.

Factory employment peaked at 13,300 in June, 2006, and sank to a low of 9,200 in July, 2009 -- a loss of 30 percent of the work force.

But industrial employment climbed back to 10,200 in March, according to state labor statistics.

At Eagle Alloy, Mr. Fazakerley said, "Now, virtually all of our industries that we serve are busy." Eagle Alloy and related companies Eagle Precision Cast Parts, Eagle Aluminum Cast Products, and Eagle CNC Technologies produce parts for the oil and gas, food processing, defense, truck trailer, railroad, mining, and construction-equipment industries.

Eagle Alloy is producing 22 parts on a new John Deere farm sprayer that is expected to sell 3,000 units and bring a potential of $5.5 million of new business to the company.

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