New factory creates Bay Area jobs

November 2, 2009 7:09:14 PM PST
There are new signs of growth in manufacturing -- a key measure of a recovering economy. Factories last month had their best numbers in more than three years.

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A new steel fabrication plant in Pittsburg cost $130 million. It boasts some of the newest pipe-making technology from Germany and South Korea and it represents a long-term bet that the economy is ready to grow again.

United Spiral Pipe will create 120 new jobs in the Bay Area.

"The economic productivity of those employees is extremely high, so we need to get those people in, get the equipment to work, and let the market work its way," U.S. Steel Chairman and CEO John Surma said.

The plant was built by U.S. Steel and two Korean companies, Posco and Seah. It turns rolls of steel cable into pipelines to carry natural gas and oil.

After 15 years, Dwayne Merrill quit his job at Fremont's NUMMI auto plant to try a new field.

"To up and leave while they were still building automobiles was very scary, so I'm happy that I do have an opportunity to grow with this place," Merrill said.

The assembly line jobs at United Spiral Pipe pay $17 to $26 an hour, plus benefits.

The plant should be operational in about three months and when it is, pipes will be sold to contractors who are working on projects through the western U.S. and Western Canada.

What is unusual is the company did not seek or accept any special incentives to create jobs in the Bay Area.

U.S. Steel and Posco have jointly operated a steel plant nearby for 23 years, so the rail lines and ship docks are already in place.

So is a skilled work force.

"We need very high-quality engineers and Seah specializes in this area," Seah Chairman Woon Hyung Lee said.

Jobs are being created when they are sorely needed.

"There are a lot of great employees at NUMMI, and with their end in the near future, I have talked to management and hopefully I will be able to bring some of the great talent over there here," Merrill said.

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