Partners in progress
Led by Du, Nanshan entered the U.S. market in 2007 and by 2010 had purchased a 100,000-square-foot warehouse in Los Angeles, established corporate headquarters in Chicago and opened a sales office in New York.
The decision to build a plant in Indiana was sealed in November 2010 when Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels met with Du and other Nanshan officials in Shanghai. Even with Du’s local connections, however, selecting the Lafayette-West Lafayette area wasn’t a given.
“The state recommended 16 possible sites,” Du says. “We quickly completed our due diligence, and decided Lafayette made the most sense for our business. It is close to our main market. We have easy access to Interstate 65, a truck diesel station nearby, low business costs, technical support from Purdue, a strong workforce base and training capabilities at Ivy Tech Community College.”
In addition to the work being done by area contractors, Nanshan America is expected to employ up to 150 workers by the end of the year.
The community’s open arms were also a factor. “During the process of making this strategic decision, we had a feeling that we were coming back home,” Du says. “Everyone welcomed Nanshan as a friend, and that is important for a Chinese company making its first major U.S. investment in the largest economy in the world.”
The 435,000-square-foot aluminum extrusion manufacturing facility, Nanshan America Advanced Aluminum Technologies, is slated to open early this summer in Park 350, a 330-acre industrial park near Veterans Memorial Parkway and U.S. 52 in Lafayette.
It will make high-end aluminum extrusions used in mass transportation, automotive, distribution, industrial and electrical industries, as well as train-body material for the growing high-speed rail industry.
"So far, the Indiana project is our biggest investment in North America or anywhere overseas outside of China,” Du says. “Counting the extrusion plant, casting house and business offices, our total investment is now up to $160 million."
“It is a very exciting combination — Chinese capital, state-of-the-art equipment from Europe and the U.S. with the most recently patented technology, experienced and innovative American management and a talented local workforce.”
Vic Lechtenberg, vice provost for engagement at Purdue, echoes that sentiment.
“Each fall, Purdue University welcomes thousands of students to campus,” Lechtenberg says. “Most will go on to outstanding careers and achievements. Some will return to launch a business here. That’s the case with Lijun Du.
“When his career put him in a position to be instrumental in selecting a site for a new venture, he remembered our community. While good business called for him to explore other sites, Lafayette and Tippecanoe County ultimately won out.”
Ultimately, says Du, it is a shared victory. “It is a Chinese investment but an American company. The people of Lafayette and Indiana will be very proud of what is produced at this plant.”
In fact, the plant is already winning recognition for its green technology.
"Because of the high environmental standards to be used in the manufacturing process, the state has categorized the plant as a minor-emissions facility,” Du says. “It will be one of the most energy-efficient facilities in the aluminum industry.”