PRITCHARD, W.Va. -- Italian manufacturer Sogefi Group will spend $20 million over the next five years to expand product lines at its Prichard plant, an investment that will create at least 250 new jobs.
The move would more than double the work force at the Wayne County facility.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin joined Sogefi representatives and local economic development officials to announce the expansion Tuesday morning.
"It's exciting when a company invests in West Virginia jobs," Tomblin said. "It's especially rewarding when a company that's already here decides to put down roots even deeper."
The Allevard Sogefi USA plant in Prichard currently employs about 160 people and produces about 5 million oil and fuel pumps and filters each year. Several global automakers, including Toyota, Ford, Fiat, Chrysler, BMW, Nissan, Mazda, Hyundai and Kia, use the products in engines.
Sogefi will use the $20 million to add a new engine intake manifold production line at the Prichard plant.
General Motors, which had not been buying parts made at the Prichard plant, will be added to the plant's customer roster when it begins buying the new manifold parts from the company once production begins next year.
The expansion - the third since the facility opened in 2004 - was the result of more than a year of talks with state Development Office officials.
While the talks had progressed somewhat, it wasn't until Tomblin met with Sogefi CEO Guglielmo Fiocchi in France during the governor's 13-day European investment mission in October that the company decided to move forward.
"We'd been talking about this expansion since last year," Tomblin said. "When we met in France, we were able to close the deal."
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, DW. Va., issued a statement late Tuesday saying he was thrilled to hear about the expansion and thanking Tomblin for his role in bringing it about.
"This expansion is a win-win," Rockefeller said. "Not only will it provide more West Virginians with the opportunity to work in the plant's impressive operation that sends auto parts around the world, but the company will also continue to benefit from the incredibly productive and dedicated men and women of our state's work force."
Tomblin said Sogefi could have located the new production line anywhere in the world and that company officials toured other sites but ultimately decided to make the investment here.
He said the move represented a "vote of confidence" in the state's work force as well as the improving condition of the state's tax and business climates.
"There are a lot of changes coming in the state of West Virginia," Tomblin said. "It's taken some time to get there, but we're going to continue to move forward so we can make more announcements like this."
In a statement, Fiocchi noted the Prichard plant was the company's first investment in North America and said the relationship the company has had with the state and its workers influenced the decision. "Our company has had great success in West Virginia, and we consider the partnership with the state and local government officials to be important factors," Fiocchi said.
Troy Thomas, general manager at the Allevard Sogefi USA plant, echoed that sentiment, saying the company's relationship with the state and the quality of the local work force helped the automotive supplier persevere during the severe downturn that occurred in the industry during the Great Recession.
"I really do believe the state, the county and the people that work here have helped the company to endure the tough times," Thomas said. "We've had good experiences here."