Last updated: March 16. 2014 9:30PM - 2507 Views
By - cchalmers@civitasmedia.com

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GREENVILLE - It was a big day for economic development in Darke County.

On Friday the Whirlpool Corporation announced its plans to add 400 new jobs and increase the size of its Greenville KitchenAid plant by more than 75 percent. The corporation plans to spend $46 million on the large scale expansion, which will increase the plant by 196,000 square feet to accommodate their increased product demand.

The new jobs would span a wide array of specializations, including production and equipment operations, supervision and engineering, and would be filled over a four year period. The current workforce currently hovers around 1,000 employees.

The announcement ceremony took place on the factory floor of the Greenville facility as the plant’s workforce heard the exciting news via video conference from Marc Bitzer, President of Whirlpool North America.

The event was well attended, including Ohio Senate President Keith Faber, Sen. Bill Beagle (Dist. 5), Rep. Richard Adams (Dist. 80), Rep. Jim Buchy (Dist. 84), Greenville Mayor Mike Bowers, Greenville City Council members: Leon Rogers, Roy Harrison and John Burkett, Dave Burrows (Dayton Development Coalition), Marc Saluk, Darke County Economic Development Director, Darke County Commissioners Mike Stegall and Diane Delaplane and many other community leaders who played a part in the momentous occasion.

Workforce was key in choosing Greenville

The decision to expand the Greenville plant came amidst wide national and global competition. According to the representatives from Whirlpool and elected officials, the choice boiled down to the quality local workforce.

“The workforce is really what sells it, because they’re our greatest asset. This workforce has just done a phenomenal job,” said Greenville Mayor Mike Bowers. “It’s just a great group of folks with great leadership.”

Whirlpool employs 10,000 people in Ohio, which is twice as many as in their home state of Michigan. In addition to the vast workforce, Ohio features five of Whirlpool’s nine manufacturing plants.

“This town is the glue that not only holds our state together but this is the glue, the value system, that holds our country together. Do you know that? This is what America is all about, Greenville, Ohio. Hardworking, God-fearing, value-driven. It’s fantastic,” said Gov. John Kasich, who attended and spoke at the Friday event.

“This expansion recognizes the outstanding skills of our Greenville employees, as well as strong partnership and support from the state of Ohio, the City of Greenville and Darke County,” said Jeff Fettig, Chairman and CEO of Whirlpool Corporation in a statement. “With several global options for this project, our decision to expand our Greenville, Ohio facility is another way Whirlpool continues to demonstrate our commitment to American manufacturing. As the KitchenAid brand continues to expand its small appliance portfolio globally, this major expansion will ensure Greenville remains the manufacturing hub of our small appliance business.”

“The workforce prides itself on its quality products and reliability. There’s a lot of heritage here and a lot of tradition with KitchenAid. It’s been an iconic product for a long time,” said Greenville Plant Manager Ken Hossler. “These employees, there’s nothing in the world that they wouldn’t do to sustain the employment here in Greenville. They’re a very dependable workforce, and I think that was demonstrated through their enthusiasm today.”

What does this mean for Greenville and Darke County?

“What this means to Greenville is that Whirlpool will be a partner here forever. They’re not going anywhere,” said Gov. Kasich. “It’s also such a tremendous amount of respect for the people that work at this place, that this company’s decided to invest so much in one location.”

“It’s really a tremendous opportunity for Darke County to have a company the size of Whirlpool make this kind of commitment and investment to the community,” said Darke County Economic Development Director Marc Saluk. “It’s a huge deal because of the scale of the project, it’s huge for our workforce. It will maybe create supply chain opportunities down the line to get more companies in, but it’s also huge in the statement that it makes to the region, to the country and to the world that a company like that is willing to make a commitment like this to Greenville and Darke County and has the kind of confidence in the area and in the workforce to be able to do just that.”

For many of Whirlpool’s employees, the expansion not only means a certain level of permanency, but also room to grow.

“I’m glad they’re committed to expanding and retaining the jobs we already have,” said KitchenAid Repair Merchant Josh Lemly.

Running out of capacity

According to the Whirlpool Corporation, overall small appliance production has doubled during the past five years at the Greenville facility, with the company experiencing overall international growth.

Due to increased demand of premium appliances in Asia, Europe and Latin American markets as well as recent introductions of the KitchenAid brand into new geographies, the company predicts the upward trend to continue well into the future.

The Greenville facility produces an average of 16,000 units per day, ranging from KitchenAid brand stand mixers and attachments, hand mixers and blenders.

“The stand mixer is a true source of pride for our entire corporation. It’s the most iconic product,” said Bixler.

The KitchenAid Greenville plant has been in operation since 1942, marking a prolonged and mutually beneficial relationship with the city. In 2011, Whirlpool moved the production of its hand mixers to Greenville from China, marking a company shift towards elevated national production

In 2012, the Greenville plant marked the milestone of 2 million stand mixers produced at the facility.

Aggressive local incentive package

According to Saluk, the Greenville City Council, Greenville Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) and the Darke County Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) put together a combined total of $700,000 in grant funds as part of an extremely proactive incentive package to entice Whirlpool to expand locally.

“We’re very proud of everyone stepping up and to the plate and realizing the importance of what KitchenAid is for the community,” said Mayor Bowers.

“In the recent history of the public and private partnership, Partnering for Progress, this is by far and away the biggest project we’ve been able to be a part of so that feels good to be able to play role in a project like this,” said Saluk.

While state incentives are currently pending final approval, local officials lauded the role of JobsOhio in facilitating the programs quick completion.

“There are incentives in there for job creation, but the great thing about it is that the cost of those incentives will be overwhelmed by the amount of payroll we’ll get in one year, which is incredible,” said Gov. Kasich.

The future of Greenville manufacturing

Construction is currently planned for groundbreaking in the fall of 2014. The construction phase will likely last from 12 to 15 months.

And now as the news has finally been announced, the local workforce and community can take satisfaction in another big step forward for Darke County.

“My staff will always hear me say, ‘It’s always 75 (degrees) and sunny in Greenville, Ohio,’” said Hossler. “Today it truly is.”

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