Cambridge-Lee Industries LLC in Ontelaunee Township is planning to celebrate its new specialty copper tubing manufacturing process with a tour and ribbon-cutting ceremony next month.
“We’re so excited,” Cambridge-Lee CEO Andrea Funk said. “What makes Cambridge-Lee special is focusing on the customer – a high level of service with custom options. We have begun producing samples that we are just beginning to send to customers, getting ready for the ramp-up and making a true launch in 2014.”
According to Funk, Cambridge-Lee has completed five “casting campaigns” during which workers melt the metal, make metal bars and then machine them down to the proper customer specifications.
“Each time we run the furnace for about 40 hours straight,” Funk said.
The manufacturing company recently announced that it is doubling its workforce from about 250 to roughly 500 employees by 2016 to serve its new 200,000-square-foot factory complete with equipment shipped from its parent company in Mexico.
All told, it’s an investment of more than $60 million, making the facility one of only two in the United States using the cast-and-roll process for making high-quality copper tubing used primarily by original equipment manufacturers of air conditioning and refrigeration units and appliances.
The move came about because of a 2009 U.S. Department of Commerce antidumping investigation against Chinese and Mexican companies for allegedly importing and dumping seamless, refined copper pipe and tube on the U.S. market at prices lower than they were selling the product on their domestic markets.
The 2010 findings of the investigation led to tariffs of nearly 30 percent on Chinese and Mexican companies importing the product.
Cambridge’s parent company Groupa IUSA of Mexico, a 72-year-old business that also manufactures and installs communications and electrical power equipment, decided in 2012 to move its specialty copper tubing operation to an expanded version of its existing Ontelaunee plant.
Groupa IUSA was considering a move to Texas, however Cambridge-Lee officials said the Berks County move was made possible when County Commissioner Christian Y. Leinbach and Jon Scott of the Greater Reading Economic Partnership streamlined the application under a relatively new concept they call the joint express approval program.
Using the JEAP, everyone who inspects, licenses, permits or otherwise approves projects of this type, full-time, part-time or volunteer officials, gathers with the business to outline the steps, establish timelines and work on options to meet time constraints so that all the details can be correct the first time and can be completed in 30-45 days rather than the typical six months to a year.
“We also did have support of the Governor’s (Tom Corbett) action team,” Funk said.
According to Cambridge-Lee officials, Dolan Construction Inc. of Reading built the new expansion, the equipment was installed by Groupa IUSA and Penske Logistics in Reading did much of the shipping.