By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – There’s a definite air of optimism at the local BorgWarner plant as the American auto industry begins to show new signs of life.
“We’ve recently recalled some people due to Chrysler picking up faster than we were expecting,” Plant Manager Ken Tobin commented on about 20 laid-off workers who were brought back to work on a Chrysler production line.
Tobin said he couldn’t be sure how long it would last, but things were looking good for the next couple of months.
In the meantime, Tobin said that the company is quoting new business and looking at future opportunities. “If those fall in place it will be very good for this plant over the next five to ten years.”
Along with Chrysler, another major customer, Ford, is doing very well, Tobin added. The plant supplies transmission control units for the Ford Mariner, Fusion, and Escape. “Those units are selling due to the Cash for Clunkers program.”
Tobin believes that the big automakers have learned a lesson from the recent economic downturn. “I think Chrysler and GM are learning they need to be leaned out. They need to be a much smaller, more nimble organization and react to the consumers quicker.”
“I think Ford has done an outstanding job of doing that outside of bankruptcy,” he added. “They are doing the things necessary to be competitive.”
“Detroit gets it now. I think they understand what they need to do.”
Tobin, who has been in Water Valley for less than three months, said that he was pleased with the support BorgWarner has received from city and county government. “The tax exemption was very much appreciated.”
“I hope we have additional machinery we can be bringing in here for new programs that we can come back to you for additional exemptions in the future. That would be good for this plant and the community.”
He also had high praise for the Water Valley Electric Department after a transformer blew up his second week in the plant.
“I went to Sonic to grab a burger. I figure, well this is going to be a three or four hour event, maybe longer. When I got back from Sonic they were throwing the power back on,” he said.
It only took workers about 45 minutes to get the plant operational again.
“I want to thank them publicly for all their efforts. I was extremely impressed with how fast they diagnosed and fixed the problem. It’s fantastic.”
Water Valley is great, he said. “This plant is part of the community and the community is part of this plant.”