Shift change at Tenneco on Friday afternoon. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Tenneco’s surprising history in Kettering: 4 things to know

The Woodman Drive auto parts plant operated by Tenneco has been beating the odds for a while now.

By all accounts, the plant should have joined other Delphi components plants in vacancy or demolition in the company’s harrowing bankruptcy process of a decade ago.

But that’s not the news of today. Instead, the plant is thriving and growing — and it has for a while.

How did that happen?

Here are four things to know about the local Tenneco Inc. plant.

RELATED: Surviving auto plant beats recession, keeps hiring 

1. It keeps surprising us

Quick history lesson: Auto parts producer Delphi, after it was spun off from General Motors to an uncertain independence, used to have a lot of local workers. In the late 1990s, Delphi had about 15,000 Dayton-area employees. After Delphi’s bankruptcy process and the Great Recession, that number today is zero.

The plant at 2555 Woodman Drive used to be a Delphi plant. A dozen years ago, the future looked uncertain at best for the facility.

But there were signs of life.

In June 2008, Lake Forest, Ill.-based Tenneco leased about 40 percent of the plant from Delphi.

Then in the summer of 2012, Southern Calif.-based Industrial Realty Group (IRG) bought the plant.

As a developer, IRG is known for its often quick turnarounds with troubled industrial properties, at least in the Dayton area. IRG worked miracles with a former GM plant in Moraine, selling it to Chinese auto glass producer Fuyao in 2014. Today, the Fuyao plant has 2,300 workers.

By August 2012, IRG Principal Stu Lichter said that IRG was negotiating with Tenneco on a long-term lease commitment for the Woodman-Forrer Boulevard plant.

Slowly, good things were starting to happen.

RELATED: 5 ways manufacturers are major game-changers in Dayton

2. Weathering the storm. 

The plant makes shock absorbers and struts primarily for General Motors passenger vehicles. Over the years, the plant also supplied sister Tenneco facilities in North America and, and a foreign automaker’s North American plant. At one point, Tenneco had more than 31,000 employees worldwide.

By May 2011, the Kettering plant employed 390 people, putting it third at the time behind the Behr Dayton Thermal Products plant with 800 workers (at that time), and the DMAX truck engine plant in Moraine with about 450 employees.

By 2011, the Tenneco plant had added about 50 workers since July 2008.

Tenneco plant managers at the time told the Dayton Daily News the plant was always looking to hire skilled and semi-skilled toolmakers and machine operators.

RELATEDSome of the region’s biggest employers plan possible expansions

3. Tenneco really likes the Kettering plant

Tenneco has had its eye on that facility for a while, with talk of possible expansions there having a durable shelf life.

Though the company wasn’t saying much at the time, this news outlet early last year was following talk of the creation of 483 full-time positions in Kettering.

The parts maker had been approved to receive a 1.724 percent, nine-year job creation tax credit from Ohio in August 2016.

In early 2017, Tenneco already had 478 Kettering employees.

4. At the moment, the future looks bright

The auto industry is cyclical and fickle in many ways, but right now the future looks bright for Tenneco in Kettering.

Tenneco will add 300 jobs as part of a $61.5 million investment that significantly expands the plant, the company and local leaders said Friday.

“The hourly jobs that are part of those 300 positions will have a salary of about $20 per hour,” said Gregg Gorsuch, Kettering development director. “It’s a very good day in the city of Kettering.”

X