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Manufacturer plans expansion

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One of Johnson County’s biggest industrial employers plans to grow by making temporary workers permanent and adding new jobs.

NSK, which operates both the auto parts supplier NSK Corp. and the ball screw maker NSK Precision Americas in Franklin, plans to invest $30.2 million in both facilities on its 63-acre campus off U.S. 31 on the city’s north side. The company will hire 46 employees, mostly machine operators who would start out getting paid between $12 to $18 per hour.

The average wages are expected to be between $15.38 and $16.65, and the jobs include benefits, according to tax abatement paperwork filed with the city. Existing employees make an average of about $31 an hour at both plants.


The Japanese bearing and ball screw maker already employs hundreds of workers and will have invested nearly $70 million in Franklin since 2004 once its latest expansion is complete. The planned expansion is the largest to date.

NSK is one of the county’s biggest industrial employers, said Dana Monson, Johnson County Development Corp. office and projects manager.

NSK Corp. and NSK Precision America currently employ 412 workers.

The company, one of a handful of Japanese companies in Franklin, has expanded in the city previously, investing more into its facilities and creating more jobs, Mayor Joe McGuinness said.

“It shows a nice commitment from NSK to the city and the community,” McGuinness said.

The investment in the two plants will benefit the community and so will the new jobs, he said.

“We welcome additional full-time jobs that pay a good wage and offer benefits,” McGuinness said.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. has offered the company up to $225,000 in tax credits and up to $100,000 in training grants. Franklin also is considering property tax breaks of about $1.9 million on the new and rebuilt manufacturing equipment. Both the economic development commission and the Franklin City Council would have to approve the tax breaks.

The economic development commission will consider the tax incentives at its meeting next month.

Over the past decade, NSK has invested more than $38 million in a series of expansions. The company bought new machinery, added new production lines and relocated NSK Precision America’s corporate headquarters from a Chicago suburb to Franklin.

NSK last expanded in Franklin in 2011, when it hired 35 more workers and invested $10 million in new machinery to make taper roller bearing products, which are used to make automotive drivetrains.

Employment has risen at both of NSK’s plants over the past few years. The company struggled and laid off employees in 2008, when automakers were reeling. The number of workers who punched in at the two factories sank to an all-time low of 170.

But business has rebounded at NSK’s auto parts plant and ball screw factory. NSK Corp. makes ball bearings and roller bearings for several foreign and domestic automakers, such as Toyota, Honda and Chevrolet. NSK Precision American makes ball screws that are used in many applications, including machine tools, medical equipment and semiconductors.

Sales of both bearings and ball screws have been strong and are projected to increase by about 15 percent over the next three years, NSK Precision America President Christopher Swartwout said.

To handle that growth, NSK Corp. plans to invest $20 million to add two new ball bearing production lines in 2013 and 2015.

“On the automotive side it’s from growing our business,” he said. “We have new opportunities to grow our business because our automotive customers have awarded us more business.”

Car sales have been strong in North America, and NSK Corp. has been getting new orders for parts, he said.

After adding the new lines, NSK plans to make 18 temporary workers full-time employees. They’ll be paid $15.38 per hour, not including benefits.

Nine temporary workers also will land full-time jobs at the neighboring NSK Precision America plant after it adds a new ball screw production line. The company plans to invest $10.2 million and add 19 new positions at the ball screw plant.

The new hires and temporary-to-full-time workers would make an average of $16.65 per hour, not including benefits.

NSK Precision American needs more workers largely to keep up with demand for its products in America and Europe, Swartwout said.

“NSK is the No. 1 precision ball screw producer in the world, and we make very precise components to go into machinery and equipment,” he said. “We’re growing our market share and expanding.”

The company is upgrading equipment and expanding capacity at the plant. Most of the investment is going toward manufacturing equipment, but the company also is making upgrades to its buildings, including a new heating and air conditioning system, Swartwout said.

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