International company signs letter of intent to build recycling plant in MEC SMART Park

CASSOPOLIS — With the swivel of a pen, the village of Cassopolis took a large step toward economic development and sustainability this week.

Thursday, international company Hydro Aluminum Metals signed a letter of intent to acquire acreage and build an aluminum recycling plan on Midwest Energy and Communications’ Cassopolis property. The company is the first to sign a letter of intent to build in MEC’s Southwest Michigan Advanced Research and Technology (SMART) Park. Should the $120 million project reach final approval, Hydro representatives hope to begin construction in spring 2022 and begin commercial production in 2023, creating 70 local jobs.

“We are very excited to be here today and announce that we are signing a letter of intent,” said Trond Gjellesvik, Hydro VP.

Hydro is a global company working to promote a sustainable future by creating innovative products through natural resources. The proposed Cassopolis facility would mark the first large-scale production of Hydro CIRCAL extrusion ingot aluminum in North America. Hydro CIRCAL contains at least 75 percent post-consumer scrap.

According to Gjellesvik, Hydro has been searching for a U.S. factory location, considering more than 10 locations country-wide. He said Cassopolis was chosen due to the positive collaboration with MEC and village officials. Additionally, he said Cassopolis is a prime location, as Hydro has a customer cluster in the Midwest.

MEC President/CEO Bob Hance said Thursday’s signing marks a historic event for the Cassopolis SMART Park.

“This is a great moment in our ongoing history, and [Hyrdo] fits really well with MEC’s mission, in respect to maintaining sustainable rural communities,” Hance said. “We have a chance here to make a difference in the community here.”

The SMARK Park got its start in 2016, when MEC acquired 500 acres of property from the Edward Lowe Foundation at the corner of M-60 and Decatur Road. In 2017, MEC opened its new Cassopolis headquarters on the property and built a community solar array in 2018. The MEC Board of Directors later decided to use the remaining more than 300-acres to build a commercial industrial park, which later became known as the SMART Park.

MEC and village officials alike believe the SMART Park will attract capital investment and stimulate local growth.

“This is a really beautiful moment for the village,” said Village Manager Emilie Sarratore. “Strong communities, strong schools and strong businesses go hand in hand. This just proves that out in ways that are unimaginable to this community.”

However, before the project can move forward, the companies involved need to dot the final “I”s and cross the final “t”s. Hydro plans to make a final investment decision on the planned greenfield development by the end of this year. Meanwhile, Hance said MEC would be working to advance the property’s infrastructure build out to facilitate future development at the SMART Park.

“The village and I are thrilled that we are under consideration. … We are confident we are the right decision,” Hance said. “Every step of the way, this has been a great partnership.”

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