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Kobelco Aluminum Products & Extrusions Inc. on Wednesday, December 19, 2018, on Kobe Way in Bowling Green. (Austin Anthony/photo@bgdailynews.com)

Kobelco Aluminum Products & Extrusions Inc. on Wednesday, December 19, 2018, on Kobe Way in Bowling Green. (Austin Anthony/photo@bgdailynews.com)

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For a company that makes lightweight products, Bowling Green’s Kobelco Aluminum Products & Extrusions Inc. is fast becoming a heavyweight in the local manufacturing sector.

Kobelco management announced plans Wednesday for a $42 million expansion of the plant on Kobe Way that will add a melting furnace and extrusion press and create 90 jobs.

The announcement comes just over two years after Kobelco was established in Bowling Green by parent company Kobe Steel and the plant was built near the plant of sister company Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products.

Kobelco, which makes aluminum extrusion bumpers and frame components for automobiles, announced an expansion last year that added 41,000 square feet to the plant and brought it to a total of 166,800 square feet. That expansion brought employment at the plant to 50, but Kobelco Administration Manager Koichi Takagi said at the time that the company’s plan was to expand the plant to 400,000 square feet.

A news release from the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development said Kobelco leaders plan to start construction in January and start production in the expanded operation in the first half of 2020. Plans call for the plant to eventually reach 220 employees.

The growth comes about largely because of a move away from steel and toward lighter materials in automobile manufacturing. A study by the Ducker Worldwide market research firm said the volume share of aluminum in automobiles is expected to rise from 6.6 percent in 2015 to 26.6 percent by 2025.

That’s a healthy trend for his company, according to Kobe Steel Senior Managing Executive Officer Hiroaki Matsubara.

“Supported by even more robust demand for our products … we will be making our second major investment in our operations in less than two years,” Matsubara said in a news release. “Our aim is to continue to make our contribution to the weight reduction of automobiles and to further develop our business footprint in the Bowling Green facility.”

The latest expansion continues the growing presence in Bowling Green of Kobe Steel, which has more than 37,000 employees at about 100 locations worldwide.

Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products was established in Bowling Green in 2005 and underwent a $53 million expansion in 2017. The KAAP plant, which produces forged suspension components for automobiles, now has about 500 employees.

Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson is happy to see the city take advantage of the trend toward “light-weighting” in the automotive industry.

“Bowling Green’s aluminum industry is thriving, and Kobelco has taken advantage of this growth, capitalizing on the opportunities provided here,” Wilkerson said in a news release. “We are excited to see their continued success and appreciate their impact on our local economy.”

Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ron Bunch welcomed the Kobelco announcement, saying: “The impact of 90 more full-time jobs in Warren County will improve the quality of life for many in our community.”

A chamber news release indicated that this was the 16th economic development announcement this year, resulting in 641 new jobs.

Kobelco’s expansion is getting an assist from the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority. The company has two performance-based incentive agreements through KEDFA to reduce its tax burden and can receive assistance in job placement and training through the Kentucky Skills Network.

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