Demand for titanium drives Richland plant expansion

It’s been described as a “well-kept secret.”

But the ATI Inc. plant in the Horn Rapids Industrial Park that specializes in melting titanium and titanium alloys for aerospace, defense and industrial markets may not stay that way for long.

It’s kicking off an expansion that will increase its capacity and double its workforce.

“As ATI says, they deliver products that fly higher, burn hotter, dive deeper, stand stronger and last longer. I’m delighted that this is all happening right here in the Tri-Cities,” said U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Washington. He called the Richland plant a “very well-kept secret” during a visit on Aug. 23, noting that while people in the region may not know much about the work, it’s important.

Newhouse was one of dozens of elected officials and community leaders who toured ATI’s Richland operation, donning hard hats, safety glasses and heavy boots to get a closer look at the melting process that involves a powerful electron beam hearth furnace. As part of the expansion of the plant, ATI is adding a second furnace, as well as vacuum arc remelting capability, which is a secondary melting process. That additional capability will improve the process flow, the company said.

Adding jobs and capacity

With the expansion, the Dallas-based ATI plans to add about 100 jobs at the Richland plant, which was commissioned in 1998 at 3101 Kingsgate Way. The expansion will help the company support $1.2 billion in new sales commitments at a time when demand for titanium is soaring.

“It’s probably the highest level of titanium demand most of us have seen in our careers, and maybe the highest level of titanium demand we’ll ever see. And we’re taking advantage of that,” said Daniel Fletcher, president of ATI Specialty Materials, the business unit that includes Richland. “(The expansion) is enabling that and is really going to be a key lever that doubles our titanium capacity within ATI.”

The first melt is expected by the end of next year, with product qualification in 2025.

ATI is a $3.8 billion company with 6,000-plus employees across more than 30 locations in the United States and nearly 20 in Europe and Asia. It makes materials used in everything from airplanes to nuclear reactors, turbines, medical equipment, electronics and more.

Here’s how the process works in Richland: the “input materials” – the titanium and titanium alloys – are formulated to exact specifications, then they’re mixed and fed into the furnace, where they’re liquefied using electron beams. That mixture then flows into hearths, where defects are removed.

The finished products are long, rounded or rectangular units weighing up to 44,000 pounds.

A first in the state

ATI confirmed it would be expanding the Richland plant earlier this summer, after the Richland City Council approved the company’s application for a Targeted Urban Area tax exemption. The TUA program aims to help communities bring in living-wage jobs by enticing manufacturers to urban areas.

It was adopted by the state Legislature last year, and Richland became the first city in the state to use it when it moved ahead with the ATI exemption.

Under the program, companies that build or expand within a targeted area get a break on city property taxes on new improvements for 10 years. Their projects must be valued at $800,000 or more and create at least 25 family living wage jobs.

Richland’s TUA includes the Horn Rapids Industrial Park and land around the Richland Airport.

The city has estimated that it’ll waive $2.6 million in property tax revenue from ATI.

The company declined to provide a price tag for the expansion project, although a city document said it was valued at $111 million. Richland Mayor Terry Christensen was among the officials who toured the Richland plant.

“We value the 25-year relationship the city has had with ATI, and we look forward to continuing this long-standing partnership for many years to come,” he said during the event.

‘The next chapter’

The event also featured some personal touches, including when longtime employees and officials – such as Newhouse, Christensen and others – placed their handprints in concrete to mark the kickoff of construction. The company also collected items for a time capsule and shared a special cake made for the occasion shaped like the letters A, T and I.

Kim Fields, president and chief operating officer of ATI, praised the employees who’ve work hard to fulfill ATI’s mission. “We’re getting ready to build the next chapter of the legacy here,” she said. “You earned this investment and the right to grow.”

Learn more about careers with ATI at

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