Berks company to add new product, create 250 jobs

Photo by Eric Steinkopff: CEO Edward Kerins Jr. of Cambridge-Lee Industries points to the furnace at the new facility.

A series of international events set the stage for a copper tubing factory from Mexico to move to the United States, bringing 250 jobs to Berks County – as well as work for local construction and shipping companies.

A series of international events set the stage for a copper tubing factory from Mexico to move to the United States, bringing 250 jobs to Berks County – as well as work for local construction and shipping companies.

Cambridge-Lee Industries LLC in Ontelaunee Township, where about 250 employees already had been manufacturing copper tubing, has built a new 200,000-square foot factory and is installing equipment to make specialty copper tubing that will require another 250 employees by 2016.

All told, it’s an investment of more than $60 million.

“The plant was originally installed in Mexico,” Edward Kerins Jr., chief executive officer for Cambridge-Lee, said of the specialty copper tubing facility.

In 2009, the U.S. Department of Commerce began an anti-dumping investigation against Chinese and Mexican companies for allegedly importing and dumping seamless, refined copper pipe and tube on the U.S. market.

“Dumping means you’re selling it in an export market at a lower price than in a domestic market,” Kerins said.

HIGH TARIFFS LED TO RELOCATION

The 2010 findings of the investigation led to tariffs of nearly 30 percent on Chinese and Mexican companies importing high-quality copper tubing used primarily by original equipment manufacturers of air conditioning and refrigeration units and appliances.

“In January 2012, our parent company decided to send the plant [production] here,” Kerins said. “We broke ground the middle of last year [2012]. By 2016 we will have added roughly 250 employees – engineers, electricians, machinists and factory machine operators.”

According to Kerins, once the factory is completed, it will be one of only two such plants in the U.S. using the cast-and-roll process to make the specialized copper tubing.

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