late-night fire did extensive damage at Muskegon Castings Corp. in Muskegon, MI, putting the aluminum diecaster out of commission for now, though the CEO of parent company Port City Group vowed the plant would be fully rebuilt and returned to operation. As reported locally, chief executive John Essex estimated the rebuilding cost at $14-15 million.

As yet there is no timetable for the reconstruction. The plant employed about 120 workers, though the CEO assured that all would be retained in the group’s rebuilding plans.

Port City Group consists of six companies, all in Muskegon, and including five diecasting plants, a custom plastics manufacturing operation, and specialty tooling production.

Muskegon Castings’ primary customer is Subaru of America, to which it supplies automotive transmission parts. According to Essex, the plant’s work already has been relocated to other Port City Group plants nearby and orders are on schedule.

Automotive companies comprise about 90% of the Port City Group's business, according to Essex. Other plants in the group supply products to General Motors and Toyota Motor Manufacturing plants, with products that include engine housings, transmission pistons, transfer cases, and steering brackets. The group engineers, diecasts, machines, and finishes the parts it produces.

The cause of the fire, which began during a late night shift change, remains unverified. Some reports indicate it began with a malfunctioning propane tank used to melt materials. Some workers tried to fight the fire with extinguishers but soon realized it was too big and evacuated.

The 75,000-sq.ft. is described as a total loss, including some finished products on pallets, prepared for delivery.