Ohio Star breaks ground on expansion

CHAMPION – Five of the planned 30 new employees are already on the job as part of a $20 million expansion at Ohio Star Forge in Champion.

Executives from Ohio Star Forge and its Japanese parent company, Daido Steel, joined Trumbull County commissioners for a ceremonial groundbreaking deep inside the Mahoning Avenue plant. The five acres, purchased from neighbor Warren Steel Holdings, previously was part of Copperweld Steel.

“This project is very monumental for us, for our future,” said William Orbach, president and CEO of Ohio Star Forge during his brief remarks at the groundbreaking event.

The company chose Champion from several other options, including at least one site in Japan. Commissioners ex-pressed enthusiasm at the decision to bring the large addition to Trumbull County, but noted it was a long time in the making.

“We have been working with them since several years ago when they made their first improvements,” Trumbull Commissioner Dan Polivka said. “We have been trying to offer as many incentives and be as business friendly to them as possible.”

That included county and township approval late last year on a 60 percent, 10-year property tax abatement on the land, building and improvements of $2.5 million to $3 million, coupled with a $107,483 job creation tax credit from the Ohio Development Services Agency and JobsOhio. The state incentive also included a $30,000 work force training grant.

In exchange, the company promised to invest about $19.8 million, create about 30 jobs at a payroll of $1.4 million in the first three years of operation and retain 95 existing jobs.

Orbach previously told Champion trustees the need is here for what they produce. He had said the trend has been shifting to localization of supply with more Japanese and European countries forging their products here of American steel.

Most of the products made at the Ohio Star Forge plant are used in the automotive industry. About 25 percent of the company’s other products are used in industrial, agricultural and energy sectors, including the oil and gas industry, bridge and building construction, and on things like wind mills and cell towers, said plant quality manager Ray Harkins.

The 33,000-square-foot building expansion on the south end of the existing facility will allow the company not only to forge more products but also to forge larger products. Planned new machinery is expected to double the steel produced to 36,000 tons a year, Orbach has said. The local facility now produces more than 14,000 metric tons of forgings.

They hope to have the new building open within six months.

Hiring will be conducted over the next two years to accommodate the increasing capacity. Salaries are based on skill level.

Trumbull Commissioner Frank Fuda expressed his excitement, not only for this expansion but for other growth potential. “It’s just a great location,” Fuda said. “A lot of things are happening here in Trumbull County. I think you are going to see a lot more groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings.”