Hydro Extrusions Illustrates Growth in Manufacturing

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

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The manufacturing sector has been making a steady comeback since the Great Recession. There’s evidence of a national growth trajectory in manufacturing. Locally, the industry has grown too.

Between 2008 and 2017, Yankton County saw a 6 percent increase in manufacturing jobs. By 2017, manufacturing jobs made up 25 percent of the county’s total employment.

Hydro Extrusions is one of the companies that has been growing locally. The international company, headquartered in Oslo, provides aluminum extrusion, machining, fabrication and finishing services for a variety of industries, including construction, transportation and automotive.

The company works a lot on commercial transportation and ag applications such as semi truck trailers and livestock trailers. It also produces window and door frames for building construction.

The Yankton Hydro location is one of 23 plants in North America and is part of the company’s extruded solutions division. The facility is the largest of seven plants in the Midwest. It’s unique in that it features large format extrusion presses, vertical wet paint lines, a fab shop and casthouse. This allows a fully integrated process, from concept through production.

“We provide extruded solutions. It doesn’t matter for what market, an application can be innovated, we can ad value. We try to do that with processes we have here,” explains Luke McDermott, general manager of Hydro Extrusions in Yankton.

Hydro Yankton is one of the biggest employers in town. It employs about 400 people and is currently hiring, mostly for production positions. McDermott notes that it’s a large facility with varying shift patterns, which employees tend to appreciate. Some people work four, 12-hour days so they have four days off in a row, for example.

“If someone is looking for a job, they can certainly find something to fit their schedule. All production departments are short right now, from extrusion to the paint line and fab shop,” says McDermott.

The Yankton facility has been in operation for nearly 40 years. Over the years, its name and ownership have changed. It was most recently known as Sapa but will be rebranded as Hydro over the next year.

Hydro aims to be “better, bigger and greener,” according to McDermott. Its material is 100 percent recyclable and the company takes social responsibility very seriously. “We want to make sure we’re doing right by the environment and being a good neighbor,” he says, adding that the company has an ambitious goal to be carbon neutral within 5 years.

The company has increased its outreach efforts to the community. It hosts and annual safety day in August, where the public can come visit and observe its operations. It also participates in charitable activities, such as a recent event where employees rode bikes as part of a competition and Hydro made donations to their local nonprofit of choice based on the number of miles ridden.

McDermott wants to correct community misconceptions about the plant as a harsh work environment. He notes that with the new leadership, the plant has changed. “We have worked diligently to become a fair employer and create a good place to work,” he says. “Ultimately, if people are willing to come in and work they can make good living

McDermott wants to correct community misconceptions about the plant as a harsh work environment. He notes that with the change in leadership, the plant has changed. “We have worked diligently to become a fair employer and create a good place to work,” he says. “Ultimately, if people are willing to come in and work they can make good living and be treated fairly.”

This year was a record year for Hydro. It more than quadrupled its profits in recent years. McDermott says the growth should continue into the future. “We’re proud of our people in this plant. The future is bright for this plant.”

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