VIENNA – Hino Motors Manufacturing U.S.A. is setting up a truck assembly plant at the old Coldwater Creek distribution center in Parkersburg, a $100 million project that will create 250 jobs by 2020, officials announced at a press conference Wednesday evening in Vienna.  ”I am very pleased to announce that we plan to purchase and make the former Coldwater Creek distribution center in Mineral Wells, West Virginia, the new home of Hino Truck production in United States,” said Hino President Takashi Ono.

The announcement came after months of speculation by local officials who have been trying to find a new occupant for the nearly 1 million-square-foot facility located in the Pettyville area and within Parkersburg’s city limits. It was owned by Wood County Economic Development.

”The new plant, which is four times the size of our current plant, will allow us to combine several assembly operations under one roof — providing us with significant efficiency gains,” Ono said. ”In addition to producing Hino’s current award-winning line-up of trucks, we will start the production of new Class 7 and 8 trucks.”

Officials also plan to continue efforts to localize parts and operations from Japan, including cab assembly operation, which is currently done in Japan.

Ono said the new plant will be operational by 2019 and its proximity to Williamstown will enable Hino “to maintain our current team members” from the Williamstown plant, which employs 295 people.

Ono said the company is planning to invest approximately $100 million, creating 250 new jobs, over two shift operations, by early 2020.

”I cannot ask for a better scenario,” Ono said. ”Our plan is to make the new Hino West Virginia plant the benchmark for Hino’s global operation.”

Gov. Jim Justice had planned to be in Vienna Wednesday for the announcement, but had a family emergency which prevented him from attending.

In a prepared statement, released at the press conference, Justice said the investment by Hino shows its faith in the state and its workforce.

”When a prominent international company such as Hino chooses to expand its operations here in West Virginia, with a $100 million investment, it really speaks volumes for our state, our workforce and our future,” Justice said in his statement.

Secretary of Commerce Woody Thrasher reiterated what Ono had said earlier about Hino’s employees, referred to as “team members,” being family.

”Those are not just words, they really are his family,” Thrasher said. “Hino has been a valued member of our business community since 2007.”

Thrasher talked about the Hino facility in Williamstown which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and the quality work that has been done there for years.

”I have lots of friends who are contractors and they all absolutely rave about the quality of the (Hino) product,” he said. ”It is the truck of choice in that industry.”

Hino’s expansion will return an existing structure to active production and create more good manufacturing jobs in West Virginia, Thrasher said.

”Companies like Hino and the other Japanese companies that do so much business in West Virginia and are so integral to our economy start with a solid relationship and business flows from that,” he said.

Steve Stalnaker, plant manager for the plant in Williamstown and who will be the plant manager for the new facility, said the Coldwater Creek facility met the company’s production needs, but it allowed them to keep their local people who were a big part of the company’s success in West Virginia.

”It allows us and enables us to maintain our team members,” he said. ”For 10 years, our team had risen to the challenge of producing world class trucks.”

Hino will be purchasing the Coldwater Creek facility which encompasses 60 acres as well as 20 acres contiguous to the site, which was owned by Wood County Area Development Corporation, said Lindsey Kerr Piersol, executive director of Wood County Economic Development. Hino will also be getting a 35-acre track behind the property which will also be utilized by the company.

”Taking care of what we have is the first order of business development,” she said.

Representatives from the offices of Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., read prepared remarks about the new business opportunities and job growth this project will bring to West Virginia. Other Hino officials also spoke about what this expansion will mean to the company.

Wood County Commission President Blair Couch told those assembled that it was “a great day to be in Wood County.”

He talked about how Coldwater Creek saw something in this area that prompted it to build the distribution center in Wood County. When Hino came to the area, there was a lot of hope in the area that this would turn into something, Couch said.

”After 10 years they have proven that Wood County citizens are a good quality workforce,” Couch said. ”Without our team members who work for Hino, the company would never have made this next investment.

”I am proud of the people who live in Wood County and proud Hino decided to invest here. I am excited to see what the next 10 years will bring for us.”

Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce said he believes in the City of Parkersburg, Wood County and West Virginia.

”It is a great day to be a Mountaineer,” he said.

Officials did not say what will become of the Williamstown plant.

”We have not made a decision yet,” Ono said.

Williamstown Mayor Jean Ford spoke about how Hino became an important part of the community working with the local schools to employees taking time to help elderly people mow grass, helping to update the Williamstown Police Department, improving the parks and more.

”Of course I am very happy for the decision, but also sad to think that possibly the community of Williamstown may no longer have Hino there,” Ford said. ”We have developed a relationship that is almost like a marriage. We fell in love with Hino and they grew to care for us.”

Now was the time to think about the area’s economy and putting more people to work in this area, Ford said.

”I am so happy that Williamstown was part of the progress,” Ford said. ”We will look forward to the future of being one big happy family in the Mid-Ohio Valley.”

Source: The Marietta Times