CFAC Adds to Labor Pool,
by Chris Peterson
After years in the doldrums, it appears the Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. may add more production.
According to the Job Service office in Columbia Falls, the company is looking to create a labor pool of about 130 workers, from laborers to electricians.
Jobs start at $17 an hour with benefits, said case manager Mark Waugh with the Flathead Job Service.
Workers who lost or left their jobs have also been contacted by the company.
CFAC currently runs one potline and employs about 150 people. The entire plant has five potlines.
"We're just preparing to restart some of the idle capacity," said CFAC external affairs manager Haley Beaudry.
He said if the company restarts more pots, it would happen in the first quarter of next year.
He said the hiring "was not a decision to restart. It's a decision to prepare for it."
In October, the company announced it was installing a new "sow" casting system which was supposed to increase energy efficiency at the plant because it uses less natural gas.
Even at one potline, the plant, using the sow technology, makes about 192,000 pounds of aluminum a day, according to company figures.
Aluminum prices have been robust compared to just a few years ago. Prices today are running about $1.20 to $1.10 per pound on the London Metal Exchange.
Just a few years ago aluminum was 70 cents a pound.
CFAC also negotiated a deal earlier this year with the Bonneville Power Administration which, in effect, subsidizes the plant's power costs. CFAC is allowed a cash payment annually that the company can use toward its power costs.
The deal was in lieu of the company purchasing power from BPA directly, though company officials have lobbied recently to reverse that.
In the future, the company would like to once again buy power from the BPA - the administration often has the best power rates in the Northwest.
Beaudry said the price of power was not prompting the company to look at adding more capacity, but the price of alumina and aluminum was.
Alumina is the raw material that's used to make aluminum.
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