SeaCast First Look: GE Aviation impressed with foundry
Feb 02, 2013 (The Montana Standard - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
SeaCast Inc. features an impressive display of technical skills at its Butte foundry, where workers handle molten steel and fabricate custom metal products for various industries.
But what most impressed Colleen Athans during her visit Friday morning is the enthusiasm of about 70 employees at the facility, dedicated to state-of-the-art titanium casting.
Athans, vice president and general manager of GE Aviation's Supply Chain Division, toured SeaCast Montana for the first time since the two companies announced a joint venture early last month.
The partnership, named Montana Precision Products, will specialize in building small structural casts, ducts and tubing for General Electric jet engines, including popular models for jet airliners.
GE Aviation is introducing more products now more than ever before, Athans said, and its partnership with SeaCast will provide much-needed capacity to meet increasing demand. The GE subsidiary invests more than $1 billion annually in jet propulsion research and development programs.
In turn, SeaCast expects to expand its operations through Montana Precision Products, which will add sustainable jobs to the Mining City. The exact number of new jobs is not yet determined.
"I'm very excited," Athans told The Montana Standard. "I think we'll have the need to grow quickly, and this is a great foundation for to do that."
While the relationship between GE and SeaCast goes back 15 years, company officials began discussing a joint project at the 2010 Montana Economic Development Summit at Montana Tech. U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., brought in GE Chairman Jeff Immelt to serve as the conference's keynote speaker.
That meeting planted the seed to see what more GE Aviation could do with SeaCast, said Athans, who is based in Cincinnati.
"It became more evident that we could do more together as a joint company," she said. "The skilled workforce here in Butte was very attractive to us."
Baucus issued a statement Friday praising the innovation of Montana businesses, and said this joint venture will provide high-tech jobs needed to move the state's economy forward.
Butte natives Mike and Bert Robins started SeaCast out of Seattle in 1985. The Butte foundry opened two and a half years ago, and is the company's fourth -- joining Seattle, Marysville, Wash., and East Greenwich, R.I.
The brothers always wanted to bring their business back home, and Bert Robins said working with GE Aviation is a chance to boost the local workforce.
"GE is the world leader in aviation engines. They are on the forefront of developing that technology," he told the Standard. "They need the capacities that this shop offers. They need our local workers."
SeaCast anticipates hiring new aerospace welders, fabricators and also expanding the casting side of business. Best of all, the jobs will be long-lasting.
"Some of what we do here, there's not a better way to do it," Bert Robins said. "That is what's ensuring the longevity of our facility."
Reporter George Plaven may be reached at 496-5597, or via email at george.plaven@ lee.net. Follow him at Twitter.com/@ George_Plaven.
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