Congratulations, NGK; much success in W.Va.
NGK Spark Plugs (U.S.A.) first opened its plant in Sissonville in 1995 to make oxygen sensors. It was one of the first Japanese companies introduced to West Virginia by Sen. Jay Rockefeller.
The relationship has grown considerably since then.
In 2001, NGK opened a distribution center nearby. In 2006, the company expanded that center.
In 2008, NGK put $15 million into an expansion of the Sissonville plant and began producing spark plugs there.
In 2010, the company announced that it would stop production of spark plugs in Irvine, Calif., move equipment to West Virginia, and consolidate its manufacture of spark plugs at Sissonville.
That decision was expected to add 40 to 50 jobs at the West Virginia facility, which at the time had almost 300 employees.
On Dec. 17, NGK announced that it will begin construction in February of an 11,000-square-foot expansion of its Sissonville facility so it can start making M12 sparkplugs and ZFAS oxygen sensors for vehicles.
These are cutting-edge products.
"The M12 plug and the ZFAS sensor [are products] that our customers will start to migrate towards very quickly because of the demands of the industry relative to fuel economy and the size of engines changing," said Bob Pepper, NGK's senior vice president of manufacturing.
The expansion should be complete and running by September, so the company will hire and train 34 more people soon.
That will bring the workforce at Sissonville to 449 by 2014 - a 24 percent increase since 2010.
NGK's expression of confidence in West Virginia is most welcome. Its presence here is valued.
It's part of an astonishing trend. Since 1986, 21 Japanese-American companies have decided to do business in West Virginia, a development Rockefeller very much hopes to strengthen.
"We have to do more all across the state," he said. "That's why I strongly support innovation, research and development, and training West Virginia's workforce for the skills our advanced manufacturing sectors need. Those are keys to our future."
West Virginia should fully commit to that future.