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Editorial: KYB expansion reflects confidence in workforce

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A Franklin auto parts manufacturer, KYB Americas Corp., is expanding and plans to create about 50 jobs within three years. The company plans to build a 45,900-square-foot expansion at the south side of its facility so it can move and expand its work in aftermarket parts production.

The KYB project is the third auto parts manufacturer in the city to announce an expansion in the past year. It joins a $12 million expansion by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Climate Control to add a new turbocharger production line and a $30 million investment by NSK Corp. to expand its ball screw and ball bearing production lines.

These announcements are significant in their economic impact, but they also say something about the quality of the area’s workforce.

KYB’s aftermarket business produces shock absorbers for parts dealers, instead of selling directly to auto production facilities, vice president of operations Sal Milioto said. The new building will allow KYB to move the aftermarket production equipment into its own area and add welding, machining and assembly lines within the next three years, he said.

Over the three years, the company will add equipment and hire 50 to 60 more employees, Milioto said. The move also will free up space in the main building, at 2625 N. Morton St., for future expansions in production lines that make parts for auto producers, he said. The company already employs 715 workers, making it one of the county’s largest private employers.

Aftermarket production at KYB has increased from about 290,000 units produced three years ago to more than 790,000 in 2012, he said. The company plans to continue increasing that production to hit 2 million shock absorbers by 2020. Aftermarket parts have a higher profit margin than parts being sold to auto producers, so KYB is increasing the amount of parts it can produce in Franklin, he said.

KYB has expanded multiple times since locating in Franklin in 1989. In 2006, KYB more than doubled the size of the plant with a 260,000-square-foot expansion and in 2011 announced another expansion and that the company was purchasing the nearby Daily Journal building for office space and research facilities. The company named the facility in Franklin its North American headquarters in 2011.

Mayor Joe McGuinness called the new expansion by the Japanese-owned company exciting for the city.

“It’s a very exciting time with KYB. Their commitment to the city and the county has been around for decades, and the continued expansion, it shows that dedication,” McGuinness said.

The KYB expansion, especially coupled with the other industrial expansions, is indeed good news for the city. It will mean long-term jobs and a boost to the area economy.

Perhaps more importantly, though, the announcements reflect a confidence in the local labor market. Manufacturing companies don’t expand if they have little hope of finding qualified workers.

So we welcome the KYB announcement, and we celebrate the fact that Johnson County can provide the skilled workers needed to make the project a success.

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