LEIPSIC, OHIO — Officials of Pro-Tec Coating Co. yesterday unveiled a new production line that they say will enable their company to make lighter, stronger, more easily formable steel to help automakers meet the tougher fuel economy and safety standards they will face in coming years.

Pro-Tec’s continuous annealing line is the result of a $400 million capital improvement project initiated in late 2010 by Pro-Tec’s two joint venture partners, U.S. Steel Corp. (IW 500/61) and Kobe Steel Ltd. (IW 1000/178) of Japan.

“Automakers are facing much higher MPG requirements today with the CAFE [Corporate Average Fuel Economy] standards, as well as increasing safety requirements,” said John Surma, U.S. Steel’s chairman and CEO. “We think the advanced high-strength steel that this line will produce is an answer to their challenge.”

The steelmakers’ joint investment created 500 construction jobs over the course of the two years it took to build the line, and the new line itself has created 80 permanent full-time manufacturing jobs at Pro-Tec, boosting the plant’s total employment to 317, according to Pro-Tec President Bryan Vaughn.

“It’s 80 new jobs,” Vaughn said. “It’s an awesome experience to have the confidence from Kobe and U.S. Steel to invest the money here, and to be able to produce these advanced products.”

See also: Pro-Tec Coating Co.'s Continuous Annealing Line [SLIDESHOW]

The continuous annealing facility is Pro-Tec’s third production line. It has the capacity to process 500,000 tons of steel a year, boosting Pro-Tec’s total annual capacity to 1.5 million tons.

U.S. Steel and Kobe formed Pro-Tec in 1990. Since the coating company’s two hot-dip galvanizing and galvannealing lines began operating—the first in 1993 and the second in 1998—they have processed more than 18 million tons of steel.