Despite the economic downturn, Middletown has been home to nearly $1 billion in corporate investments and some of the largest projects to hit Ohio in the past two years

The newest investment headed to the city is a $300 million combined cycle power generation plant to be built by Penn.-based Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. at AK Steel’s Middletown Works. The new plant, to be constructed over the next two years, would capture waste blast furnace gas from the AK’s blast furnace and process it to make steam and electricity to be used by the local mill.

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The new investment is a boon for Middletown, which has struggled recently with job losses and high levels of unemployment.

Mike Robinette, economic development director for Middletown, said he was not aware of another single manufacturing facility that has invested so much in its operations within the last few years.

AK Steel’s partnerships with Tenn.-based SunCoke Energy for a new $340 million coke plant coupled with the Air Products project push the local steelmaker to over $640 million of new investment to improve operations at its local mill alone.

According to data from the Ohio Department of Development, while there are several projects that have created or retained more jobs than AK’s recent partnerships — about 75 permanent jobs will be created through the SunCoke project — dollar investments don’t even come close. The next closest is Solar, Inc. of Perrysburg, Ohio, which is spending $83 million to buy new equipment and expand its operations.

“It bodes well for the future of the AK Steel facility,” Robinette said.

Robinette said the project will lower emissions and generate electricity at AK’s Middletown Works. “There’s not another project in the U.S. like this one,” he said.

Middletown Mayor Larry Mulligan Jr. said the project “shows AK’s initiative to stay here and grow their business here.”

“It’s an incredible project,” said City Manager Judy Gilleland. “We are thrilled that this has received stimulus money funding and is yet one more reason why AK Steel Corp. is a valuable community asset.”

It also shows that AK is making a move to be green, said Bill Triick, president and CEO of The Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s a move to be more of an environmentally friendly. AK is moving in the right direction and that needs to be applauded,” he said.

While AK’s investments account for more than half of the nearly $1 billion in Middletown projects, the city also boasts investments topping $265 from Atrium Medical Center and a $20 million expansion by Quaker Chemical.

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