A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Council acts to support Albany industry

Written October 10th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

Brice Winney, left, and Doug Puerta of Stack Metallurgical talk to the city council Wednesday. In the audience, former councilor Ray Kopczynski.

Nov. 18 will be a red-letter day for the Albany metals industry. That’s when a 1.5-million-pound “hot isostatic pressing” or HIP unit is scheduled to arrive at the building Stack Metallurgical Group is having constructed on southeast Marion Street.

The city council Wednesday unanimously approved a $745,000, seven-year, 2.5-percent-interest loan toward what has been described as a nearly $30 million Albany investment by the Portland company. The loan was to cover the extra expense of preparing the site to install a second HIP machine later on.

Stack executives Doug Puerta, the CEO, and Brice Winney, general manager of its new Albany operation, were on hand. They said the high-pressure press has generated interest among — and they expect will bring in business from — metal manufacturers across the United States.

The council saw an image of the machine taken where it was made, in Sweden. It dwarfs the people standing in front of it. Puerta said it will be set in a pit and installed partially underground to avoid having to construct a building 80 feet tall.

Winney summarized the HIP process in layman’s terms. If I understood him, the machine compresses titanium and other metals with argon gas at very high temperatures and a pressure of up to 30,000 pounds per square inch. This allows components to be made smaller and lighter and still retain the metal’s strength.

The significance of having an HIP machine in Albany is that local manufacturers can have their products processed locally instead of out of state, saving money and time. But the Stack execs said business also would be coming in from out of state.

Following up on readers’ comments on hh-today.com, Mayor Sharon Konopa asked about safety and the possibility of an explosion. Puerta said the machine is built, obviously, to contain the high pressure, but if it fails, it’s made to bleed pressure rather than releasing it at once. Councilman Rich Kellum pointed out that argon is an inert gas and can’t blow up like, for instance, steam.

After its ocean voyage from Sweden, the HIP machine will be trucked along I-5 from Tacoma to Albany, and then down Marion Street to its site near the south end. Judging by the size and weight involved, that operation should be an interesting sight. (hh)

Screens in the council chambers show an image of the HIP machine in Sweden.

18 responses to “Council acts to support Albany industry”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    I’m happy to see Albany government use public funds to help a private company abandon meritocracy, where competition in a free market drives economic decision-making.

    I’m happy to see Albany government use public funds to help a private firm re-define return on capital to something other than innovation and risk taking.

    I’m happy to see Albany government use public funds to declare itself a financial institution that forms alliances between local businesses and city government to generate rewards for the connected few.

    Some call this crony capitalism. But as a former Albany taxpayer I call it progress. Long live progressivism in Albany.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Your Iast paragraph is a perfect example of what’s right & good about & in the city I call home.

    • hj.anony1 says:

      Public to help the private?

      MMM good socialism.
      Normally you all would just PUKE! Fun times………..

  2. Bill Kapaun says:

    Steam blows up?
    It’s NOT a combustible. There is no detonation. Just a release of pressure & heat IF the container fails.

    • J. Jacobson says:

      Tell that to the TEPCO operators at Fukushima. Steam pressure built up so high that it blew the lid off the containment vessel. Please do not say that an explosion at Stack Metallurgical will “never happen.” You don’t know that anymore than the next person.

  3. Bill Kapaun says:

    “Councilman Rich Kellum pointed out that argon is an inert gas and can’t blow up like, for instance, steam.”
    If you pop a balloon, does the air explode?

    • Hasso Hering says:

      The paraphrase was mine. Don’t blame Kellum. And anyway, events called “steam explosions” cause plenty of trouble now and then, as for example at Chernobyl. So it seems kind of pointless to quibble about a phrase

      • centrist says:

        Point of order/clarification HH
        Steam contains significant energy, but will not explode. The pressure vessel (boiler, tank, piping) may leak, but prudent design reduces the risk of acceleration.
        The Chernobyl reference is offmark. The reactor was a breeder with external fuel rods in a graphite honeycomb. The reactor had a runaway, overheated, and caught fire.
        The HIP operates at a pretty high pressure, but there’s no accelerant.

        Coming down off the soapbox now

      • Mac says:

        Or the recent event at Selmet

    • Rich Kellum says:

      A “Steam explosion” refers to superheated water expanding to steam, at 212deg F, that ratio is 1700-1 at 1000deg f it is over 4000-1, hope this makes it clearer

  4. thomas cordier says:

    Does the loan transaction violate the Charter requiring voter approval before more debt??

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Why would it? It’s not a city debt.

      • thomas cordier says:

        Further however–does the City have that money in an existing account such that City won’t need to borrow to backfill funding??
        With all the discussion about City not having monies to maintain streets, etc I’m surprised the loan can come from monies on hand.

        • Hasso Hering says:

          As the advance story reported, the money comes from the city’s economic development fund, which contains what’s left of the Gatorade/Pepsi settlement millions.

  5. John Redmond Byrne says:

    How does Albany justify this action in light of Oregon Constitution Article XI, Section 9 (1) that prohibits cities from “rais(ing) money for, or loan(ing) its credit to, or in aid of …any…corporation…”?

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Good question. But the spirit and text of that section have been violated at the state and local levels for so long — many decades, I think — that it has become routine to do so. I suspect there’s a long-ago appeals court ruling that allows the practice despite what the constitution says. Thanks for asking.

  6. Bill Kapaun says:

    Why give them money when they were going to build it anyway?

  7. Jim Engel says:

    Some years ago wasn’t there a “promoter” from Australia that came thru Albany with a scheme to make titanium outta thin air. He put up a big concrete building along the west side of Ferry St about near 34th Ave. Didn’t the city fathers at the time “invest” some public funds in the development???

    Then there was the Australia that promoted a gas pump deal at the City shops to provide MPG, cost per gallon, etc. as far as cost per vehicle goes. Very vague, very hard to use and didn’t he take off back to Australia after the deal fell thru???!!! Where these City investments???!!

    Poor me, a little property tax payer that pays for it all.


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