MIDDLEPORT — News last week of Imperial Electric’s plans to expand its workforce and facilities spread quickly throughout Meigs County and the Ohio Valley.
It even went as far as Capitol Hill.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, visited Imperial Electric Co. in Middleport on Tuesday to highlight the company’s recently announced expansion. During his visit, Brown met with company leadership and workers before taking a tour of the plant.
Last week, Nidec Corp., Imperial Electric’s parent company, announced a $3.2 million investment in the Middleport plant to keep the facility open and to update aging equipment.
“Nidec’s decision to expand Imperial Electric’s Middleport operations is a direct reflection of the strength of its Ohio-based workforce,” Brown said. “I’m committed to expanding public-private partnerships throughout the state that create opportunities for increased investment in manufacturing and in workers.”
Imperial Electric manufactures elevator engines and other products used by the elevator industry.
Mark Venoy, plant manager of the Middleport facility, said the company has already begun its expansion by adding 18 new employees.
“At this time, we’ve more than doubled our employment here,” he said. “Most of those new employees have already been brought on board and training is ongoing.”
Venoy also said local contractors and services will begin working on the physical aspects of the facility. He added that the expansion of both jobs and facilities have provided a boost to the morale of the workforce.
“The facility was an older facility and needed some attention,” he said. “(Nidec) plans to do some physical things to the facility, such as a new roof, paint and lighting, which will spruce up the place a lot. We have a lot of longtime employees here, those who have been with us 30 to 40 years. They’ve seen what’s happened here and it’s definitely improved morale.”
Pradeep Sood, president of Nidec Corp.’s elevator and drive systems business platform, said the company is happy with its $3.2 million investment.
“We’re already seeing benefits of our strategy to modernize the Middleport facility, taking advantage of its central location and highly skilled workforce,” he said.
Brown said it’s important for elected leaders to support local manufacturing jobs because it leads to increased wealth for its workers, which then spreads to the local economy and beyond.
“(Imperial Electric) makes a lot of products and this company hires a lot of workers,” Brown said. “For every manufacturing job in Meigs County, there are other jobs that are supported by it or that it supports in the whole supply chain. The local restaurants and the local hardware store all do better because people here are making a good wage. That’s why manufacturing is so important to our state.”
In 2012, after Nidec Corp. acquired Imperial Electric, questions reportedly arose as to the value of investing in an outdated facility in southeastern Ohio — one that required a major overhaul in terms of equipment so that it could keep pace with the expanding elevator industry.
Brown said he has been a strong supporter of American manufacturing. He authored the Revitalizing American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act, which was signed into law in December 2014. The bill created a national network of manufacturing innovation made up of advanced manufacturing hubs to bring together industry, universities and community colleges, federal agencies, and all levels of government to leverage resources and spur innovation.
Brown’s office also hosts a series of manufacturing camps each summer to get a new generation of Ohioans interested in manufacturing jobs.
“I’m hopeful for the future because of some potential expansion (at Imperial Electric),” he said. “One of my jobs representing Ohio in the U.S. Senate is to help companies expand, find markets, deal with rules and regulations and train their workforce at community colleges … whatever it takes.”
Venoy said he’s been delighted with the job expansion and looks forward to the planned improvements to the Middleport facility.
“We definitely want to be a part of bringing manufacturing jobs to southeastern Ohio, especially Meigs County,” he said. “We’re really excited for what the future holds for us.”