At about 10 a.m. on June 9, 1960, the first molten metal was syphoned from pot No. 7, trucked over to a new ingot plant and poured into molds. Production at Alcoa Warrick Operations had begun.
For 60 years now, Alcoa Warrick Operations has grown and evolved. Facilities have been added and modified. Thousands of employees have come and gone. Three generations – going on four – have benefited from Warrick Ops’ presence in the community. Over those six decades, the integrated aluminum facility has produced more than 28 billion pounds of metal – enough to stack beverage cans to the moon and back approximately 146 times.
Warrick Operations is North America’s largest producer of coated container sheet for the food and beverage industry with a vertically integrated operation consisting of a Smelter, Rolling Mill and Power Plant.
“Our metal has helped and continues to help provide food and beverages to billions of people,” said Evan Quinley, Warrick Operations Manager. “It’s been used at family gatherings, community events, little league games and camping trips. I doubt there are many people alive in North America today who have not sipped a drink or opened a food can that was produced by the men and women at our facility.”
Alcoa officially announced its decision to locate a vertically integrated production facility in Southwest Indiana on April 17, 1956. The goal was to pioneer, serve and dominate the burgeoning aluminum food and beverage container market. The project was very welcome in a region that was struggling economically after World War II with some significant factory closures, including the loss of automobile manufacturing in Evansville.
Southern Indiana was chosen for the new facility because of the region’s rich and vast natural resources, the plentiful coal, the navigable river and the availability of the most important resource, skilled people. Thousands were out of work, so the announcement of a $80 million plant that would initially employ 1,200 people, was welcome news.
Originally, Warrick Operations was envisioned as a 150,000-ton-per-year smelter supported by a 375,000-kilowatt coal-fired power plant. The newest technology at the time made it “the Cadillac of smelters in the aluminum industry,” Ray Beverly, one of the plant’s first smelting supervisors, said in a 1985 history book about the early days of the plant.
The first shipment of metal was a load of 700-pound, so-called pig ingots for Alcoa’s mill in Lafayette, Ind. The next delivery went to the plant’s first real customer, General Motors (GM) in Bedford, Ind.
Today, Warrick Operations has a talented and diverse team of more than 1,800 employees, including two labor unions – the United Steelworkers Local 104 (Smelting and Rolling Mill) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 702 (Warrick Power Plant).
It is the top taxpayer and second largest corporate employer in Warrick County, with an annual payroll of more than $150 million for the entire site. And, according to a recent economic impact study, Warrick Operations add almost $1 billion a year to the State of Indiana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“We are modernizing and modifying our operations for the future,” Quinley said. “We are working to preserve the knowledge we have gained from our experience, building a foundation for the next generation of Warrick Alcoans.”