GALLIPOLIS — Thursday’s exciting announcement by GKN Sinter Metals that 50 new jobs are on the horizon in conjunction with a $10 million expansion project was made at a conference abuzz with excited energy, regional camaraderie and hometown pride.
The press conference was held Thursday afternoon with local, regional and state officials in attendance, as well as GKN Sinter Metals management.
Matt Daniels, Gallipolis plant manager, said the project is expected to add 50 full-time jobs and generate up to $20 million in additional sales for the company over the next two to three years. The expansion will include the installation of a new 750-metric-ton, powder-compaction press, along with other capital equipment to launch production of differential-gear components developed at the plant.
“Certainly this media day is an opportunity for us to announce this very significant group of incentives. In total there are five incentives with a total value for GKN of approximately $800,000,” said Daniels. “It is a very significant investment in the county and in this facility.”
Daniels said the incentive package provided by local, regional and state government and development entities will help to leverage a total investment of approximately $10 million.
“We will be able to increase our sales by roughly $20 million,” said Daniels of the expansion project. “That’s a fairly significant percentage for us — about a 50 percent increase from where we’re at today. With that, obviously there comes jobs — the whole reason we are here. We expect to be able to increase our employment by roughly 50 full-time jobs that will be split between our hourly and salary workforce.”
Daniels said that the expansion project at hand is really a continuation of growth that has been happening over the course of the last few years years.
“Over the last three years, we’ve also generated roughly 40 brand new jobs; we have not been idle,” said Daniels. “That level of success — there’s no way it would be possible without the diligence and persistence of our community, our suppliers, our employees, our parent company, and most importantly, our customers.”
Ohio State Rep. Ryan Smith also spoke briefly at the announcement event.
“It’s an exciting day. We are very thankful for GKN’s commitment to our area,” said Smith. “They certainly understand and recognize the strong and dependable workforce we have here in southern Ohio, and I certainly appreciate that.”
Smith took the time to recognize a number of people and organizations that brought the project to fruition.
“This has been a team effort; there has been a lot of moving parts,” said Smith. “I’m really proud of this team taking advantage of it and coming together. Everybody shared the same goal and that’s to get jobs in this community and to the region.”
Smith noted that these aren’t minimum wage positions.
“There are 50 families in this community that will directly benefit from [the expansion], and that is huge. We certainly don’t want to diminish that effect — especially when you are talking about jobs with benefits at an average of $45,000 per year — that’s fantastic,” Smith added.
Speaking from a local perspective, Gallipolis City Commission President Jay Cremeens told those in attendance that economic development issues sometimes take a certain measure of confidentiality and faith.
“When Randy Finney [Gallipolis City Manager] came a commission meeting one night saying, ‘I know something you guys don’t know, and I can’t tell you, but I do need some legislation passed’, we knew Randy was onto something hot,” said Cremeens. “We’ve always trusted Randy, so we did what we felt was in the best interest [of the community].”
Cremeens went on to praise GKN for being a good neighbor in Gallipolis.
“We are so proud to have GKN as such a good neighbor of ours,” said Cremeens noting that even GKN’s manicured landscaping reflects a sense of pride in the community.
“A day like today is one of the best times to be president of the city commission,” Cremeens remarked.
Gallia County Commission President Harold Montgomery, who served as emcee for the event, took the opportunity to thank a number of people involved in the GKN expansion project, but paused to offer special thanks to Gallia County Economic Development Director Melissa Clark.
In closing remarks, Montgomery looked back at his early impressions of the plant which stands in stark contrast to GKN’s current state of affairs.
“I have a couple memories regarding this facility, and at the time, neither one of them was very good,” said Montgomery. “I think it was back in about ‘97 with a previous owner, Borg Warner, and they were planning on closing the plant down and moving to Romulus, Michigan. They had a sister plant there.”
Montgomery said the local community rallied at that time, as well, and negotiations were ultimately successful.
“We were able to exercise the enterprise zone that we had in place, and we convinced [Borg Warner] to do the expansion of [the part of the facility where the event was being held],” Montgomery said.
“Then again we went through downturns and what have you, and we kept hearing about this place, Romulus, Michigan. It was becoming kind of a thorn in our side,” said Montgomery. “It was relayed to us that they were thinking about maybe closing again — combining the two plants and going to Romulus.”
Montgomery said that with the help of many regional leaders and lawmakers, specifically Don Branson, executive director of the Southern Ohio Agricultural and Community Development Foundation (SOACDF), also known as the Tobacco Foundation, the team was able to deter the loss.
“From that point, today is especially gratifying. We’re not here trying to save the plant; we’re here to enjoy the expansion of this facility,” said Montgomery. “Matt [Daniels], we thank you. We thank the company, and welcome to Gallia County.”
Other participants in the press conference included John Molinaro, president and CEO of the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth; Larry Kidd, JobsOhio board member; Tammi Brabham, president of the Gallia County CIC; and Don Branson, executive director of the SOACDF.