‘A fantastic day for Cassopolis’: Hydro Cassopolis celebrates grand opening

Published 5:30 pm Thursday, November 16, 2023

CASSOPOLIS — A special ceremony was held Thursday to celebrate the completion of a global aluminum company’s state-of-the-art aluminum recycling plant.

Dozens of Community members, partners, and friends gathered at the Midwest Energy and Communications SMART Park in Cassopolis Thursday as Hydro celebrated the grand opening of its new aluminum recycling plant.

“It’s a pleasure to be back here in Cassopolis just a little more than a year after the groundbreaking ceremony,” said Hydro CEO Hilde Aashiem. “In 2022, many of us gathered here in a small tent in the middle of a cornfield. Today, we are gathered in a much bigger tent ready to mark the completion of this state-of-the-art recycling facility here in Cassopolis.”

“It’s a fantastic day for Cassopolis,” said Cassopolis Village Manager Emilie LaGrow. “It’s a huge win to bring in a company that is going to create opportunities for employment, access to technology and resources that we just haven’t had here before.”

A Norway-based aluminum and renewable energy company with more than 30,000 worldwide employees, Hydro broke ground on its $150 million aluminum recycling facility in April 2022. Production at the Cassopolis facility begins Friday with approximately 70 employees. When ramped up to full production, the plant will produce 120,000 metric tons of low-carbon aluminum extrusion ingot per year. The village estimates tax revenue from the facility to be about $357,565 per year once the plant begins its operations. 

The state-of-the-art recycling plant in Cassopolis will strengthen Hydro’s ability to supply car makers and other industries in the U.S. with recycled aluminum. While electric vehicles are now a small percentage of the overall market, amounting to less than 3 percent of U.S. new auto sales in 2021, forecasters expect big increases in the next decade.

Hydro is looking forward to contributing to Cassopolis’ positive momentum.

“We look forward to following and contributing to the growth and development of this fantastic industrial park,” Aashiem said. “Together, I’m sure that we will make this plant a success for Hydro, for Cassopolis, the State of Michigan and for our customers. Providing the US automotive industry with a domestic source of aluminum reborn here in the US.”

The ceremony began with the Cassopolis Marching band performing the hit song “Take On Me,” by Norwegian pop group A-ha and featured several speakers including Hydro’s Head of strategy and Business Development Duncan Pitchford, Aashiem, Norway State Secretary Tore Sandvik, Midwest Energy and Communications Business Development Coordinator Jennifer Gilliam, LaGrow and Executive Vice President Eivinnd Kallevik. There were also demonstrations of the recycled aluminum Hydro would be using as well as products using the aluminum produced in Hydro plants.

“This plant here in Cassopolis will earn its profits by being part of the solution – creating jobs, cutting emissions and supporting our customers. In their green transition,” Aashiem said. “At Hydro, we say that we build industries that matter. We aim to be an industry that matters also for the communities in which we operate.”

Aashiem went on to thank Cassopolis Village President David Johnson and the Cassopolis community for welcoming Hydro into the community.

“David, you have been an invaluable partner for us throughout the planning of the project,” she said. “I was so happy to meet you for the first time in April last year. Thank you, Mr. Johnson, for welcoming us with open arms for your community.”

According to Aashiem, Hydro was considering approximately 20 sites for its aluminum plant when LaGrow asked them to “Imagine Cass.”

“Each had its strength because at the end, it came down to how (LaGrow and her team) stood out,” she said. “You welcomed us with open arms and your eagerness to bring new jobs and opportunities to your community.”

LaGrow has been impressed with the way Hydro has not only invested in its own plant but also the community. Wednesday, the company donated $25,000 to the Cassopolis High School Robotics team, enabling them to invest in additional tools and equipment to support their program. In March, Hydro announced a multi-year pledge to the Cass Kickstart to Careers program, which establishes and funds savings accounts on behalf of all incoming kindergarten students in Cassopolis Public Schools, provides additional financial incentives throughout the school years and provides financial literacy training.

“They have already proven over and over again that they want to be our partner here in this community,” LaGrow said. “Their time in the schools, donations to events to the things that sometimes get left behind, is phenomenal. When the CEO gets up there and says we want to be part of this family here in Cassopolis, they mean it. It’s beautiful. We are very blessed to have them here.”

For LaGrow and village leadership, the grand opening of Hydro is just the latest example of their award-winning “Imagine Cass” development plan –  an effort by the Village of Cassopolis to revitalize Cass and drive more business to the area – bearing fruit.

“We’ve said it, I’ve been saying it for a long time and I will continue to say it – you can be small, rural and exceptional and I think we are proving that,” she said. “Today is just another little blip. You don’t have to be the big guy, you don’t have to be the big city, you don’t have to have the biggest team, but do what you do well and good things will come.”