American Equipment and Machine, Inc., (AEMI) has announced the official opening of the company’s new manufacturing facility in Centralia , Illinois . The approximately 460,000 square foot machine shop at 2400 South Wabash Ave. will rebuild and manufacture longwall mining equipment for parent company Murray Energy Corporation’s coal mines.
“At a time when the economy is struggling and jobs are disappearing, we are very happy to be creating jobs and having a positive impact on the local economy,” said Mike Yates, general manager of AEMI. “We look forward to manufacturing state-of-the-art mining equipment that will continue to enhance the productivity and safety of all of Murray Energy’s mines.”
Ohio-based Murray Energy Corporation is the largest independent coal producer in the United States. In Illinois , Murray Energy independent operating subsidiary The American Coal Company operates the Galatia Mining Complex, the New Future Mine and New Era Mine in Saline County , while other subsidiaries operate underground and surface coal mines in Ohio , Kentucky and Utah . Combined, the mines produce approximately 28 million tons of coal annually.
Claiming to be a leader in using technology to enhance mine production and safety, Murray Energy has worked with various vendors for more than a decade to manufacture custom mining equipment for its mines. Now, with its own machine and equipment facility, the company will produce a proprietary longwall mining system it has engineered to meet the exacting specifications of its own production processes, and which will be integrated into all of its mining operations over the next five years.
Local officials welcomed the start-up of AEMI, both because the company took over an existing but vacant facility and because of the more than 100 local jobs created. Centralia mayor Becky Ault and Butch Mathis, mayor of nearby Wamac, both worked closely with the company to facilitate its start-up and make it feel welcome.
“We have been so excited about this since the day we found out that the company was interested in locating here,” said Ault. “We are always looking for new local job opportunities, and Murray Energy has created those. This is an extremely positive development for our cities and our region, and we are very grateful.”
AEMI currently employs a skilled workforce of 102, including 88 hourly workers and 14 managers and supervisors. The company expects to add up to 34 additional jobs over the next two years as it ramps into full production and also expands into the manufacture of hydraulic components for its longwall mining systems. Long-term plans for the plant may include manufacturing additional lines of mining equipment for use by Murray Energy and its subsidiaries and could expand the facility’s workforce to nearly 200.
The facility, the former home of Meridian Automotive Systems, had stood unused for approximately six years before Murray Energy Corporation purchased it in the fall of 2008. Following months of extensive renovations, AEMI officially began operations June 1. AEMI will build proprietary longwall mining equipment and then eventually build and repair other pieces of underground mining equipment exclusively for Murray Energy’s independent operating subsidiaries.
The effort to develop an ‘in-house’ machine and equipment operation to manufacture longwall components to company specifications was led by Billy Williams, a veteran longwall equipment manager who has worked with Murray Energy Corporation founder and CEO Robert Murray for 44 years. Williams said that building its own longwall systems just made sense for the company.
“We have a very talented team of people, and we have spent many years finding solutions to the complex technical challenges of safe and productive mining operations,” said Williams. “Over the years we came to realize that the most efficient way for us to operate would be to build the equipment ourselves, to our own specifications, and we could save money in the long run as well.”
Williams said the company brought its plans together in September 2008. CEO Robert Murray promptly bought the Centralia facility both because of its central location in relation to the company’s mining operations and because the facility was well-suited to heavy equipment manufacturing. The availability of a local workforce with the skills needed to operate the facility also was a key factor in the company’s decision to locate in Centralia , along with the enthusiastic cooperation of local officials.