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Published: Monday, 5/3/2010

Manufacturing comeback

THE relief that workers in Defiance and Ottawa are feeling at the prospect of a turnaround in local manufacturing is palpable. It should be. Not long ago, employees in both communities came to work each day apprehensive that their jobs might vanish.

But in a hopeful sign that the recession may be making way for growth and recovery, General Motors has announced a $115 million investment in its Defiance casting facility.

The company plans to produce a new generation of fuel-efficient, small-block truck and car engines. The automaker's move, part of an $890 million upgrade at five of its engine plants, will save as many as 190 Defiance jobs over the next three years.

Gov. Ted Strickland says GM's move to secure the 62-year-old plant's future will have a "lasting impact on the Defiance community and northwest Ohio," putting people to work and keeping the state's auto manufacturing sector strong.

In Putnam County, a stronger than expected business outlook for a prominent appliance maker has given a needed jobs boost to the village of Ottawa. Whirlpool has decided, with the help of state aid, to proceed with a $4.4 million project to expand a formerly closed and bankrupt freezer factory.

The company bought the plant in December, called back 125 employees with the promise of at least three months' employment, and restarted production. The plant makes Whirlpool-brand chest freezers. The Michigan-based firm plans to keep the factory operating, expand employment to 190 this year, and possibly employ as many as 324 people by the end of 2011, depending on market demand.

All of this is good news and a great relief to those who are struggling to find work in a county with an 11.7 percent unemployment rate.

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