AK Steel research center plans to open by end of year

Construction on AK Steel’s Research and Innovation Center is progressing “very well,” though no opening date has been announced, a company official said.

AK Steel is building a 135,000-square-foot facility on a 16-acre site in the city’s Renaissance District, near the intersection of Ohio 122 and Interstate 75. It will be the first tenant in developer Schueler Group’s newest business park, named North Pointe Commerce Park.

Construction of the $36 million facility is expected to be completed later this year, then AK Steel will begin the transition into the new facility, said Lisa Jester, communications manager.

Currently, about 76 researchers, scientists and engineers work at AK Steel’s existing research center on Curtis Street in Middletown, according to the company. Those workers will transfer to the new site when it opens, and about 15 new full-time jobs will be added.

Jester said the new $36 million center “underscores” AK Steel’s strong commitment to the future of steelmaking in America, and to the company’s continued industry leadership as a technical innovator in the steel business.

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“It will be customer-focused, providing advanced technical support to our valued customers, as well as developing new and improved steel products for a number of our markets,” Jester said. “The most important part of our building, however — the work of our expert employees and collaboration with our customers — is the work that will happen inside.”

Activities at the center will focus on the development of automotive lightweight steels as well as advanced, high strength steels for other industries served by the company such as electrical and stainless steels, AK Steel said.

When the company was considering locations for the center, Jester said, it received “strong proposals” from several locations, including out of state. But she said Middletown, where the company was founded more than 100 years ago, emerged as the “clear best option.” She said the company weighed many factors, including proximity to its manufacturing facilities, incentives and general business climate.

The site provides easy access to AK Steel’s customers, she said, including those in the auto industry in the Detroit region, and is centrally located to its other AK Steel sites as well.

Last May, Middletown City Council approved an incentives package for the research center project that includes borrowing $2.1 million to buy the land for the steelmaker.

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