Demand drives expansion, 400 new jobs at Whirlpool plant

Whirlpool Corp.’s $40 million investment in its Darke County operations will ensure that Greenville remains the manufacturing hub of the company’s small appliance business, company officials said Friday.

The “massive and significant expansion” of Whirlpool’s Greenville production facility will nearly double its size and create about 400 new jobs by 2018, said Marc Bitzer, president of Whirlpool North America. He addressed hundreds of cheering local workers via video link from Chicago.

“Ohio is the state for us to be, and to stay,” Bitzer said.

Bitzer said the company selected Greenville for the expansion because of strong demand for its KitchenAid small appliances, and the strength of Greenville’s committed, highly skilled workforce. Whirlpool considered other sites in the U.S. and abroad, he said.

Overall small appliance production has doubled over the past five years at the Greenville facility, which manufactures KitchenAid products that include the iconic stand mixer. Greenville produces an average of 16,000 units daily, including 10,000 stand mixers.

In recent years, the Greenville facility has become an export factory, producing KitchenAid products for both domestic and foreign markets. “To have a factory in the middle of Ohio that pretty much exports products back to China is something truly unique,” Bitzer said.

Whirlpool employs 10,000 workers in Ohio, including about 1,000 at its Greenville facility. The expansion will bring the local workforce to about 1,400 employees.

Whirlpool will launch the project following final approval of state and local grants and tax credits, which are currently pending, company officials said. Construction on the Greenville plant is slated for 2014, with a predicted completion date in late-summer of 2015.

Gov. John Kasich said the cost of state incentives will be offset by the amount of payroll the expanded facility will generate in one year. The incentives amount was not disclosed.

Kasich, who walked among the assembled workers with a hand-held microphone, said the investment “locks this community down with Whirlpool.”

Ohio winning jobs that could have gone to China or Mexico “is beginning to show that manufacturing is coming back,” Kasich said. “It is a wonderful day for Greenville.”

Whirlpool’s announcement follows the January report that Chinese auto glass producer Fuyao plans to bring manufacturing operations into the former General Motors plant in Moraine. That plant is expected to hire up to 800 workers.

“Whether we are making cars or making stand mixers, manufacturing is good, but it has to be done in a new way,” that involves more advanced technology and more highly skilled workers, Kasich said.

Ohio has created 38,200 manufacturing jobs during Kasich’s term in office, from January 2011 to January 2014, said Rob Nichols, a spokesman for the governor.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester, and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, both addressed Whirlpool workers via recorded video messages.

“As one of Ohio’s largest manufacturers, I’m pleased that Whirlpool is further strengthening its commitment to U.S. manufacturing in Greenville,” Boehner said.

Brown said Whirlpool’s decision to expand production in Ohio and bring jobs back from China “is a testament to the strength of Ohio’s manufacturing sector and the quality of Ohio’s workers.”

Greenville residents were discussing the Whirlpool announcement Friday morning at downtown businesses such as the Coffee Pot on South Broadway Street.

Bob Rank, a Greenville area farmer, said 400 workers is “a lot of people for a town this size to hire.”

Whirlpool is one of Darke County’s “stationary” employers, Rank said. “It stays right with us. It helps to keep the county going.”

Bruce Boyer of Greenville said the city is facing job losses at a number of other area employers, including retailers Staples and Kmart, which recently announced the closing of their local stores.

“You’re putting jobs in here, but taking away from there,” Boyer said.

Terri Barga, owner of The Meat Shop on South Broadway Street, said the addition of 400 new jobs could benefit the area’s small businesses. “I hope it will bring more customers in,” she said.

Michigan-based Whirlpool Corp. had annual revenues of about $19 billion in 2013. The company has 69,000 employees, and 59 manufacturing and technology research centers worldwide.

The Greenville production facility has been in operation since 1992. Downtown Greenville also is home to the KitchenAid Experience store, a retail destination that is open to the public.

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