'Kranselag' marks roof completion at new recycling plant

When construction of the roof of a new $150 million aluminum recycling plant in Cassopolis was completed this month, the accomplishment was marked by an unusual tradition called “Kranselag.”

Similar to a “topping out” ceremony in the U.S., where builders celebrate the installation of the last beam in a new building, the Norwegian tradition involves placing a wreath or small tree at the top of the house when the roof is completed. 

In this case, a wreath was placed at the top of the new Hydro plant, the first occupant of the village’s industry and technology park. The hope is the Norwegian company will be the first of many celebrating a “topping out” ceremony in the park,  the Michigan Advanced Research & Technology Park or SMART Park.

Workers place a wreath at the top of the plant as part of Kranselag.

The nearly 400-acre site is adjacent to the Midwest Energy & Communications (MEC). The founders of the park, MEC is an electric cooperative, fiber internet provider, and propane provider serving over 35,000 businesses and residents in rural southwest and southeast Michigan and portions of northern Indiana and northwest Ohio.

The village of Cassopolis worked with Penn Township through a 425 agreement in 2020 to bring this property into Village limits.  The village then worked to adopt the covenants set by MEC and integrate that park into its long-term planning. 

The park is part of a much broader effort – dubbed “Imagine Cass” – to redevelop the once-thriving farming community. The village’s success in reimagining itself – with a spruced-up streetscape, a new beach and parks, new businesses, and wayfinding signs, among other improvements – earned Cassopolis the Michigan Municipal League’s Community Excellence Award last year. That award honors communities for innovative placemaking programs and projects. 

“Many years ago we tasked this community and our leaders to Imagine Cass and Embrace the Vision.  As we recently celebrated the Kranselag with Hydro, it is very clear that the Vision was embraced and that together, we are all changing the landscape of this community,” said Emilie LaGrow, village manager who has spearheaded efforts to transform Cassopolis.  “Together, we continue to create a Village that is vibrant, relevant, rural, sustainable and exceptional.”
What’s happening: Global aluminum company Hydro recently celebrated the roof installation of the main building at its state-of-the-art aluminum recycling plant in Cassopolis. When completed later this year, the plant will provide 70 jobs and strengthen Hydro’s recycling capabilities in the United States.

The Cassopolis recycling plant will produce 265 million pounds of recycled aluminum extrusion ingot a year and will be the first large-scale producer of Hydro CIRCAL® in North America. The aluminum scrap will be sourced from Michigan and neighboring states.  In addition to processing scrap from its customers, the company will partner with scrap suppliers in the area to secure the needed material.

About jobs: The company’s aim is to offer jobs that are careers. Fulfilling the job slots will be a key stepping-stone in Hydro’s ambition of doubling the recycling of post-consumer aluminum by 2025. So far, the company has hired nearly 20 employees, including eight key management positions. In March, Hydro started to recruit for positions in production, process, administration, and materials management. Applications are open for production operators as well. In total, the company looks to fill 70 jobs.

“We are looking for people who want to play an important part in Hydro’s exciting recycling growth agenda. With Hydro, you’ll not only get a job but also a career opportunity where you can make a difference, by being part of a high-performing team who puts safety first, embodies an improvement culture and lives the Hydro values of Care, Courage and Collaboration,” said Ingrid Guddal, head of recycling for Hydro Aluminum Metal.

Why it’s important: State-of-the-art recycling technology is key for the U.S. automotive industry going electric.  Applications for the aluminum produced in Cassopolis will include critical automotive applications as well as other transportation uses, consumer and building system applications. 

Aluminum plays a significant role in the lightweighting of electric and hybrid vehicles, as cars need less electricity and fewer or smaller batteries to travel the same distances. With the automotive industry embarking on its biggest transformation since the assembly line, Michigan is fundamental as consumers go electric. To meet this challenge, Hydro is bringing its next-generation recycling technology, pioneered in Europe, to the plant in Cassopolis.

“We are seeing increasing interest in terms of low-carbon products and sustainability, where automotive companies look for more low-carbon materials to put into their vehicles and make their cars more sustainable. We are here to serve this growing demand by providing our industry-leading proprietary alloys for more critical automotive applications from Cassopolis, Michigan,” Guddal said.

SMART Park assets: Located in southwest Michigan, the park is convenient to transportation, including major highways, renowned industries, major universities, and metropolitan areas. The Canadian National Railway connects directly to Chicago, Detroit, and the regions in between, while truck access and facilitated rail connections provide a path to the rest of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. 

About the company: Hydro has been operating in North America for several decades and is present in a broad range of market segments, including automotive, building and construction, transport and infrastructure. The company has about 6,000 employees in the U.S. in three business areas, with 21 manufacturing sites and two research and development facilities.
Hydro Aluminium Metals is a provider of recycling-based aluminum metal billets, primary ingot as well as primary billet and foundry alloys. Hydro Extrusions provides high-quality aluminum extrusions and fabricated products.  Hydro Building Systems provides building facades and other exterior products fabricated from aluminum extrusions. 

Hydro is one of the largest aluminum recycling companies in the U.S. In 2023, the company will recycle around 2 billion pounds of aluminum scrap.

Why Cassopolis: Cassopolis was selected because of its access to this market, availability of post-consumer scrap to produce CIRCAL®, and the community’s openness to Hydro investing in the area. In addition, Michigan is the heartland of the U.S. automotive industry, housing around 90 percent of the top 100 automotive suppliers in the country. The Cassopolis plant meets an increasing market demand as manufacturers transition to electric vehicles while bringing the next generation of recycling technology and local jobs. 

The development of infrastructure in SMART Park is supported by grants from the state of Michigan and the U.S. Economic Development Administration. Hydro will partner with MEC to source 100% renewable-based electric power for the facility.

What’s next:  “There continues to be significant interest in the SMART Park and we are excited by the variety of prospects that we are working with,” the village’s LaGrow said.
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