GREENVILLE - “If you can’t get excited about what we’re about to encounter, check your pulse, because this is very, very, very exciting for all of us in the community, and very exciting for Whirlpool,” said Ken Hossler, Whirlpool Corporation’s Greenville plant leader.
He was referring to Whirlpool Corporation’s decision to build a $40 million dollar expansion, nearly doubling the size of the current Greenville facility and adding up to 400 jobs by 2018. One of the strongest reasons for choosing to expand in Greenville was the workforce, officials noted throughout the groundbreaking ceremony held Wednesday morning, with a sea of orange-shirted employees in attendance in addition to local and state elected officials, regional economic development representatives, and JobsOhio representatives.
“As you can imagine, whenever we make the decision to add to our manufacturing footprint, there’s a lot of what-if scenarios that take place, looking at all of our options,” stated James Keppler, vice president, integrated supply chain and quality, North America region, Whirlpool Corp. “We decided, ultimately, after a lot of deliberation, that yes, you can duplicate equipment, you can duplicate processes to a different location, but ultimately we have one asset here in Greenville that would be almost impossible to duplicate. Our greatest asset is the workforce here in Greenville.
“Many companies aspire to zero defects, many companies aspire to complete customer satisfaction, it’s becoming a reality, it’s part of the plan, here in Greenville,” Keppler continued. “So ultimately, we believe that the team here in Greenville is producing the best quality and the best craftsmanship in the industry. That’s why we’re making the investment out here in Greenville, Ohio.”
It took months of preparation, Keppler said, with time spent getting approvals and planning for this project. The project was announced in March, with Governor John Kasich in attendance to show the support of the state; local efforts involved the city of Greenville, Darke County commissioners, and Darke County Economic Development.
Nationally, Whirlpool Corp. employs 22,000 people total, Keppler said; 10,000 of those employees are in Ohio, with approximately 1,000 in Greenville and another 400 planned by 2018. Each year, Whirlpool Corp. spends more than $7.4 billion to operate eight U.S. plants and keep approximately 15,000 manufacturing employees at work; five of Whirlpool’s U.S. locations are in Ohio.
The Greenville facility produces approximately 7,500 units per day; KitchenAid’s stand mixer, hand mixer and blender are produced at the Greenville facility, which was established in 1942. KitchenAid was established in 1920.
“At a time like this, you have to ask the question of how did we get here? This brand is 95 years old and we’re still growing,” stated David Elliott, general manager, Global KitchenAid and Small Appliances. “In the last five years, we’ve almost doubled the stand mixer volume. What’s happening?
“It is a tremendous story,” he continued. “You go to the highest fashion districts, throughout the world…and you see this little stand mixer made here amongst the corn fields of Ohio, in the front window, decorating these high-end fashion stores. The thing I believe has given it longevity is partly the design, it’s beautiful, all the work you do with colors, it’s fantastic, it’s a competitive advantage for us. But as Jim [Keppler] mentioned, it’s the quality. The quality is unbelievable, and I believe it is the best in the industry.”
Elliott believes the quality of the product has given the company the longevity, and the reason for the quality is the employees, he said. The quality has also allowed the company to continue to grow, he said.
“Over the years, we’ve been able to increase the stand mixer business, but it’s also been a great source of pride to be able to bring back more products to Greenville,” Elliott stated. “Having the hand mixer move back to Greenville - years ago, it was made in Greenville, then it went to China a couple years, and we brought it back. There’s just not that many products that come back.
“That’s is a tribute to the workforce here,” Elliott added. “We didn’t bring it back here for any other reason than we love the quality, we love the commitment, and it’s a globally-competitive operation. That’s why we brought it back. So you guys need to know that you’ve got a really competitive environment, but you’re leading in that competitive environment.”
Greenville’s Mayor Mike Bowers noted that the quality has a lot to do with where the product is made.
“Manufacturing is making a comeback in this country; Ohio has proven it’s a premier site for manufacturing, but when it comes to small appliances, when it comes to a stand mixer, Greenville is the perfect place to grow, Greenville is the perfect place to have this business,” Bowers stated.
State Representative James Buchy (R-Greenville) added that “the main reason we’re here is because West Central Ohio is the best place to live, rear families, and work.”
“Most of you here, and many of you who are graduates of schools in Darke County, have stayed here and reared the next generation,” Buchy said. “Folks, I want to tell you, the future is really bright, because these folks’ children and grandchildren will be the same quality that have been the hallmark of this county since day one. I just want you to know, because of you, there is no finer place in the world.”
State Senator Bill Beagle (R-Tipp City), reiterated the importance of the workforce, stating “What isn’t as obvious [as the economic development], is the workforce implications of this, but it’s been talked about a number of times today, that the reason we’re here today is because Whirlpool is confident that the job is going to get done right.”
This expansion isn’t just about adding square footage and jobs, it’s about building a community, added Andrew Charlton, project manager with JobsOhio.
“I decided to speak to you today not as a representative of JobsOhio, or the state of Ohio, but to speak to you as an Ohioan, as someone who has seen first-hand the impact that Whirlpool has had on employees, and our communities,” Charlton shared. “…[During college] I was fortunate enough to land a job as a temp in Whirlpool’s Clyde, Ohio, facility where they make the washing machines. It was 30 miles away, but I think like many of you, I had no problem driving that, day after day, at 5:30 in the morning, because I knew when I got there, Whirlpool was going to provide me with a good job, for a good wage, in a good working environment. I think that’s so important, and so many companies don’t provide that to their employees.”
“I was one of the orange shirts; I got to know all of you, to value all of you,” Charlton added. “And I saw the impact you made didn’t stop when you went through those turn gates, right? You went back to your homes, you went back to your communities, and you expanded that impact. I think that’s why, coming here today to celebrate this project, it’s not just doubling the square footage, it’s not just adding 400 jobs, it’s building and expanding and creating a community, and that’s worth recognition.
“If nothing else today, I hope you all remember every day when you walk into work, you’re not just building a beautiful, beautiful hot pink stand mixer, you’re also helping to build community,” Charlton continued. “And that’s really what Ohio’s all about – building community, being a great place to work, live and do business.”
Ferguson Construction, Inc., an Ohio-based company with offices in Sidney, Dayton and Columbus, will lead the project construction, which hopefully will be completed by next summer, Hossler noted.
Whirlpool will be maximizing their potential by using Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) practices, which will contribute to annual savings for operations, and make Greenville one of the company’s most energy efficient plants.