At Whirlpool Corp.’s manufacturing plant in Darke County, workers are ready and eager to compete, plant lead manager Ken Hossler said.
“Greenville is hungry,” Hossler said. “We are continually looking for new opportunities. We want to make sure we are a viable solution.”
It’s that hunger that helps the plant compete in an increasingly challenging global marketplace, Hossler said.
At a time when the home appliance producer has cut jobs and closed a plant elsewhere, Whirlpool’s Greenville operation — which produces about 1.5 million Kitchen Aid mixers and blenders a year — is expanding and bringing some jobs from China.
Whirlpool cut about 5,000 jobs and closed a Fort Smith, Ark. plant in fall 2011 after experiencing what it called softer demand and higher materials costs. But less than two months later, the company announced plans to expand the Greenville plant.
The plant, located off U.S. 127, has hired 70 people this summer, and plant leaders expect to hire another 50 in about a week, Hossler said. About 25 of those jobs are attributed to bringing the production of mixers from China. The plant has about 750 full-time and 250 part-time workers.
Some movement of jobs from China to the U.S. may be expected if wages and living standards in China continue to rise, Mauro Guillen, a Wharton professor of international management, told the Dayton Daily News in an email.
“My sense is that American firms are rediscovering the U.S. as a manufacturing site for certain types of products now that wages in many emerging economies are higher and American productivity is on the mend,” Guillen said.
Maintaining a strong U.S. presence is important to Whirlpool, said Whirlpool spokesman Jeff Noel. Eighty percent of what the company sells in the U.S. is made in the U.S., he said. About 12 percent of its volume is exported.
But to move jobs to the U.S. and keep them here, the business case must be there, Noel added. “Step one, it has to make good business sense,” he said.
“Good business sense” in this case means the right cost and quality in producing home appliances that consumers still want, Noel said.
While most of Whirlpool’s employees are located abroad, half of its 22,000 U.S-based employees work at the company’s five Ohio plants, Noel said. The company’s four other Ohio plants are in Clyde, Findlay, Ottawa and Marion.
Whirlpool celebrated production of its 140 millionth clothes washer in Clyde last year, and it makes more than 3 million dishwashers annually in Findlay.
Late last year, Whirlpool company received a 45 percent, five-year Ohio tax credit for the creation of $2.2 million in additional payroll at its Greenville plant.
As part of the tax credit agreement, Ohio government requires the company to maintain operations in Greenville for at least eight years. The company will create 65 full-time jobs, the Ohio Department of Development said last year.
The new jobs were to be added at an annual payroll of $2,237,560, with 636 jobs being retained at a payroll of $22,295,286 and an expected investment by the company of $340,000, according to the Kasich administration.
The state went forward with assistance to Whirlpool even though it had concerns about the company in the past.
A report from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine late last year identified 200 companies that didn’t meet job creation or retention targets after receiving grants, tax credits or other help from the Ohio Department of Development. Whirlpool was on that list for a proposed project in Marion.
According to the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer newspaper, the department “forgave” a $3 million grant to Whirlpool and chose not to seek repayment.
Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool was forgiven because the company’s ultimate state investment of $221 million was four times its original target, a department spokeswoman told the Plain Dealer.
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