- Associated Press - Thursday, March 26, 2015

ALCOA, Tenn. (AP) - A statement from the U.S. Energy Department says it has given a “conditional commitment” for a $259 million loan to the Alcoa plant in East Tennessee to expand production of lightweight materials for vehicles.

The Blount County plant says the loan would support the previously announced expansion, which is expected to add 200 jobs.

Media report the award, announced Thursday, is the first new loan in four years from the federal agency’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program.

“The department’s ATVM loan program can play an important role in helping to finance expanded domestic manufacturing of fuel-efficient technologies that will support the next generation of advanced vehicles and protect the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement.

“To date, the program has supported the production of millions of American-made cars that are more fuel-efficient and technologically advanced than previous models,” Moniz said.

If finalized, the loan will support the plant’s expansion for developers to produce lightweight aluminum for vehicles to improve fuel efficiency.

“Alcoa’s innovative, high-strength aluminum solutions are leading the light weighting revolution now happening in the automotive industry,” said Klaus Kleinfeld, Alcoa chairman and chief executive officer. “Alcoa is pleased to be part of the government’s program to encourage a greater shift to aluminum intensive vehicles that are safer, lighter and more fuel-efficient.”

Maryville Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander called the announcement “good news.”

“Today, more than one-third of Tennessee manufacturing jobs are auto related, and investment in advanced manufacturing is an important part of how our state will continue to attract good-paying jobs,” Alexander said.

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