Johnson Controls to double size of local plant

Investment of $138.5M to add 50 jobs this year

6/29/2011
BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Bob Ritter stacks batteries for shipping at the Johnson Controls plant on Industrial Road near Toledo Express Airport. The company plans to convert production to batteries with new technology.
Bob Ritter stacks batteries for shipping at the Johnson Controls plant on Industrial Road near Toledo Express Airport. The company plans to convert production to batteries with new technology.

Auto supplier Johnson Controls Inc. will invest $138.5 million and will nearly double the size of its battery plant in suburban Toledo, adding about 50 jobs this year as it converts production from traditional lead-acid automotive batteries to those with newer Absorbent Glass Mat, or AGM, technology.

Once construction is complete and equipment and tooling are in place, the 30-year-old plant at 10300 Industrial Rd., near Toledo Express Airport, will employ approximately 450 unionized workers and crank out an estimated 6 million technologically advanced automotive batteries each year for use in vehicles assembled in plants across the Midwest.

"This is a big part of our strategy," company spokesman Becky Fitzgerald said. The local plant was chosen for investment because it supplies batteries to original equipment manufacturers including General Motorc Co., Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., and Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Ms. Fitzgerald said. The investment is part of $420 million that Johnson Controls will spend by 2015 to expand AGM battery manufacturing in North America and Europe to 11.2 million units a year.

Plant manager Bob Snow said the 320,000-square-foot facility is to be expanded by 220,000 square feet.

The 50 new employees will be hired this year or early next year through Advance Temporary Services of Sylvania, Mr. Snow said. Those seeking to apply for positions may do so by sending resumes to toledojobs@advancetemps.com.

Johnson Controls is the world's seventh-largest auto supplier, selling more than $16.6 billion in parts to automakers worldwide in 2010, according to figures compiled by industry publication Automotive News.

John Curtaindoll performs a pressure test on a battery at the plant. It is to produce 6 million batteries a year after the expansion.
John Curtaindoll performs a pressure test on a battery at the plant. It is to produce 6 million batteries a year after the expansion.

Pending final state and local approvals, Johnson Controls will receive Ohio tax credits and incentives totaling $25 million, the company said. Construction is to begin this summer, with the first line beginning production in spring 2012.

Besides the local battery plant, the company has a plant on Arbor Drive in Northwood that makes parts for Chrysler Group LLC's Toledo Assembly Complex and another facility on Trust Drive in Holland.

The new batteries are used primarily in vehicles featuring fuel-saving "Start-Stop" technology that shuts down an engine at stop lights and other times that the vehicle is not in motion and seamlessly restarts the engine when the brake pedal is released or the clutch is engaged.

Start-stop technology, which has been used for some time in Europe, cuts fuel use and emissions by 5 to 12 percent and can be found in newer domestically made vehicles.

"Start-stop vehicle technology is emerging globally as one of the most affordable options for consumers who want to buy a more fuel-efficient car for very little added cost up front," Alex Molinaroli, president for Johnson Controls Power Solutions, said in a statement. "We see this market growing to 35 million batteries globally by 2015, and the United States is an important piece of the market."

The local plant is one of 13 lead-acid battery plants operated in the United States by Johnson Controls, Ms. Fitzgerald said.

Harley Laws, unit chairman for United Auto Workers Local 12, which represents about 375 hourly employees at the plant, said the firm had sought to open the union's contract early to move work to the plant near the airport.

He said the union and Johnson Controls reached a six-year deal in May that "provides good wages and benefits for our members." He declined to provide details of the new contract.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at: lvellequette@theblade.com or 419-724-6091.