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As the Johnson Controls Inc. plant broke ground Thursday to expand the auto supplier plant 220,000 square feet, Gov. John Kasich wasn't afraid to get in the dirt.
The governor did not seem concerned about his shoe polish when he stood on a mound of dirt at the Johnson Controls plant and scooped out two mounds of earth with a shovel alongside nine representatives from Johnson Controls, United Auto Workers, and the Lucas County Improvement Corp. The plant expansion is a $138.5 million investment that will put the factory at the helm of fuel-efficient battery suppliers in the United States, plant executives said. It will produce six-cell batteries with absorbent glass mat technology.
"Thanks for what you're doing," Mr. Kasich said to plant employees and executives. "We're just trying to get the government out of the way."
In a speech to about 150 plant employees and UAW representatives, the governor said Johnson Controls is receiving about $12 million from the state in sales tax credits and research and development incentives. The plant is also receiving about $12.5 million in local tax incentives, said Rob Nichols, press secretary for the governor. The state tax breaks come as part of a plan to revive northwest Ohio, which the governor said has been "battered for too long," and make the region more business friendly.
The battery the plant will produce originated in Germany and is used in Start-Stop technology, which shuts down an engine when the vehicle is not in motion. The mechanism saves 5 percent to 12 percent of fuel expended, said Deb Roberts, a company vice president and general manager. She expects 35 million cars using the mechanism to be on the market by 2015.
Mr. Kasich told the workers to be proud of their contribution to automobile owners, who will save money on gas, and to the environment. He said it is time to stop thinking of factory workers as "losers."
Jorge Guillen, a vice president and general manager with Johnson Controls from Milwaukee, said the company is investing $420 million worldwide to expand absorbent glass mat battery manufacturing. The plant at 10300 Industrial Rd. in Spencer Township near Toledo Express Airport will be the leader for the United States.
The plant is the first to produce the battery for Johnson Controls. Mr. Guillen added that in addition to adding 50 jobs, the expansion would give work to about 800 construction workers.
Bob Snow, the plant manager, said he does not know when construction will be finished and the plant can begin hiring because some of the equipment might take over 30 weeks to arrive. A company spokesman said officials plan to open the first assembly line early next spring, and hiring should start in the coming months. Job applicants should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pinky Harpel, who has been part of the UAW for 41 years and has been employed at the Spencer Township plant for the last five, said he was happy for the opportunities the expansion would open.
The governor had originally planned to tour the assembly line, but because time was short, he instead met some of the plant employees before giving his speech. He joked with the staff about football, how many push-ups he does a day, and how Vice President Joe Biden should not golf in shorts.
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