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A $34.5 million boost: MacSteel at Fort Smith receives approval for second phase of expansion.

Last week's approval of the second phase of MacSteel's "ultra-clean steel program" will result in a $34.5 million expansion of the company's Fort Smith facility, a division of the Quanex Corp.

Approval came from the Quanex board on June 29. Quanex is a Houston-based manufacturer of steel, aluminum and titanium products.

Carl Pfeiffer, the Quanex chairman and chief executive officer, says the program will be funded with part of the proceeds from the company's recently completed $86.3 million preferred stock offering.

The modernization and expansion project, which will cost an estimated $52 million, will include MacSteel's Jackson, Mich., facility.

The Fort Smith plant produces steel bars.

The general manager at Fort Smith, John Fisher, says the addition of special rolling equipment and automated material handling systems will increase the plant's annual capacity from 305,000 to 345,000 tons.

The first phase of the program was completed a year ago at a cost of $16 million, according to Fisher. The first phase consisted of the upgrading of machinery involved in the plant's melting and casting process.

The plant melts scrap steel and transforms the liquid metal into bars to meet customer specifications.

The project's second phase is scheduled for completion in December 1994.

Various Applications

"We supply steel for special applications," Fisher says.

The transportation industry is the largest market, relying on the steel bars for engine parts, drive shafts and gears.

MacSteel produces steel assemblies for the defense industry, including the M-1 tank and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

"We also produce roller bearings," Fisher says. "Anything that moves uses a bearing."

The steel bars produced at the plant begin at a size of 1 3/8 inches in diameter. The expansion will allow MacSteel to produce even smaller bars.

Although the expansion will consist primarily of the addition of equipment, Fisher foresees the hiring of additional maintenance personnel to work on the new machinery.

"We already employ more than 340 people," he says. "And we use local contractors on a regular basis. I think this reinforces the idea that MacSteel is here to stay."
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Author:Taylor, Tim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jul 6, 1992
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