The story below appeared in today’s Charleston Gazette.
By Paul J. Nyden
NGK Spark Plugs plans to hire additional workers to expand its manufacturing facilities in Sissonville, in addition to the 300 employees who already work there.
But NGK Vice President Bob Pepper said Wednesday, “We have not yet finalized the total number of new jobs. We should have a pretty good idea by the end of next week.”
In October, NGK will begin moving production equipment to Sissonville from its plant in Irvine, Calif., which will stop making spark plugs next May.
“The consolidation of manufacturing into one location enables us to manage our process with a single team and facilitates better economies of scale,” Pepper said. “An expanded West Virginia campus will further strengthen our global network and better position the company to service its North American manufacturing customers.”
Headquartered in Wixom, Mich., NGK has manufacturing, storage and distribution facilities in Sissonville, Irvine and Chicago, Ill.
In 1995, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., played a key role in attracting NGK to West Virginia. NGK, the first Japanese auto company to come to the state, built an oxygen sensor plant near Sissonville 15 years ago.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Pepper and NGK Chief Administrative Officer Richard Sullivan were in Irvine, where they announced the shutdown of part of that facility.
“We are meeting with individuals and associates there [who might be losing their jobs]. It is a tough couple of days here,” Pepper said on Wednesday.
“On the other side of the coin, it is very positive news for Kanawha County and Sissonville.”
In Sissonville, production of oxygen sensors, which reduce exhaust emissions, has also increased recently.
“We have taken on additional business that had been done in Japan for our customers in Brazil — Ford and Fiat,” Pepper said. “There has also been a strengthening of the auto market in the U.S., a little busier than expected.”
Rockefeller said, “This additional plant responsibility is another testament to our state’s incredible workforce. I know that the team members at NGK will be able to handle anything sent their way and I thank the company for putting their faith in us.”
Gov. Joe Manchin said he was pleased NGK decided to expand its local operations.
“In these difficult economic times, to have this level of commitment from NGK is remarkable and truly strengthens our ability to attract future investments.”
Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said, “All too often, we are told no one in West Virginia is doing anything about keeping, and bringing in, good-paying jobs.
“Here is a great success story. We already have over 300 good-paying jobs with excellent benefits. We all have benefited from the cooperation between the federal government, Sen. Rockefeller, state government, local government and the Charleston Area Alliance.”
NGK said its Irvine facility will continue to operate as a distribution center and depot for the West Coast.