Construction Begins at SMART Park
by Bob Hance on Tuesday, July 12, 2022
Over the past few years, you’ve read my columns on our Southwest Michigan Advanced Research & Technology (SMART) Park that’s located on our headquarters property in Cass. I first introduced it in 2019 when we were in the very early stages of envisioning a future for the property and the community. Then I told you that we had inked a deal with our first tenant, Norsk Hydro (Hydro). And now, I’m happy to report that construction vehicles are hard at work and the 300+-acre field of dreams has begun its transformation into reality.
On April 20, we officially welcomed Hydro (pronounced heedro) with a groundbreaking ceremony for the Norwegian company’s $150 million aluminum recycling plant. Hilde Merete Aasheim, Hydro president and CEO; Anniken Krutnes, Norwegian ambassador to the U.S.; and Rep. Tim Walberg were among the speakers to welcome over 140 guests and reporters. It’s not every day we get international eyes upon us for our progress, so this event was a very exciting opportunity.
You may be wondering why a company from Norway chose to call the SMART Park home. Well, our location offers an ideal spot to access automotive suppliers that rely on aluminum to make lighter, better performing vehicles. But more importantly, Hydro values rural life just like we do. They believe in the values, work ethic, and self-sufficiency that come with life in the country.
Production is expected to begin in 2023, and once fully operational, the facility will provide 70 jobs. And this investment is just the start.
We’ve been working hard to make the SMART Park a competitive and attractive place for businesses. This summer, roads, water, and other critical infrastructure will be put into place. The Park has also been designated as a CN Certified Rail Ready Site, a certification only a handful of sites in the U.S. have earned. The certification provides direct access to CR Rail’s 20,000-mile network and reduces time from site selection to construction for partnering companies. This is a big deal because the Federal Highway Administration forecasts that total U.S. freight movements will rise from around 19.2 billion tons in 2020 to around 24.9 billion tons in 2040. Easy access to rail is critical.
I’m proud to say that “vibrant, relevant, and sustainable rural communities” aren’t simply words on a wall in one of our conference rooms. They are a constant reminder of our dedication to making our corner of the world a thriving place filled with opportunity and success.