SISSONVILLE, W.Va. -- Nineteen local high school and junior high school teachers visited the NGK Spark Plugs plant in Sissonville on Thursday afternoon.
Company officials led them on a tour of their facilities that produce spark plugs and oxygen sensors for cars across the United States and foreign countries.
The Charleston Area Alliance's Educator/Industry Institute arranged the tour as part of their program to connect schoolteachers to local industries and help them learn about internships and job opportunities that might be available for their students.
Cullen Naumoff, a project manager with the Alliance, said the group's two-week program also included visits to local facilities in the chemical, energy, automotive, health, food and tourism businesses.
Officials from NGK, which is based in Japan, first visited West Virginia in 1989 at the invitation of Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. In 1994, company officials decided to build the new facility in Sissonville.
Bob Pepper, NGK's senior vice president of manufacturing, said his company produces 27,000 oxygen sensors and more than 60,000 spark plugs every day its plants operate today. (Oxygen sensors detect and regulate gas emissions from car engines through their exhaust systems.)
NGK began manufacturing oxygen sensors in Sissonville in 1996 and began making spark plugs in 2008, in a separate facility. NGK also built a large warehouse on its Sissonville campus.
Three years ago, NGK closed the factory it operated in Irvine, Calif., moving all U.S. operations to Sissonville.
"We have 400 full-time workers and 70 temporary workers here today," Pepper said. "In 18 months, we hope to have 450 full-time workers and by 2020, a lot more."
Today, NGK Spark Plugs and NTK Technical Ceramics "operate manufacturing facilities in 11 countries. Most are in Asia, but we also have facilities in France, South Africa, the United States and Brazil," Pepper said.