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Wayne auto parts plant to expand, adding 250 jobs

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sogefi Group's plan to expand its auto parts manufacturing plant in Wayne County will lead to at least 250 jobs, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced Tuesday.

The agreement to expand the company's Prichard plant came about during Tomblin's European investment mission last month, he said. Tomblin met with Sogefi Group CEO Guglielmo Fiocchi in France.

The Prichard plant was one of several sites the company considered for expansion. The $20 million expansion will allow Sogefi to add engine intake manifolds to its product line, where it currently employs 160.

"West Virginia offers tremendous value for businesses who need a top-notch work force and a winning business climate," Tomblin said. "Sogefi's expansion underscores the competitive edge that's attracting more and more businesses to our state."

Sogefi's plant manufactures parts for automobile engines, including fuel pumps, fuel filters and oil filters. The plant produces more than 5 million pumps and filters each year for worldwide auto firms such as Toyota, Ford, Fiat, Chrysler, BMW, Nissan, Mazda, Hyundai and Kia.

Sogefi entered the Mountain State in 2004, opening its first plant with a $37 million investment.

"The plant that we opened in West Virginia in 2004 was the first entry of Sogefi SpA into North America," Fiocchi said. "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."

The West Virginia Economic Development Authority in October provided approval to purchase and lease to Sogefi $750,000 worth of new equipment, which is scheduled to arrive from May through August.

Troy Thomas, Sogefi's Prichard plant manager, said the new equipment and product line would allow Sogefi to continue moving forward.

"We've come through the rough period and now we're prospering," Thomas said.

In 2009, Sogefi closed its automotive suspension components product line. The line that produced coil springs and stabilizing bars was hit hard by the Great Recession, Thomas said. The coil springs and stabilizing bars rarely needed to be replaced unless a person totaled their vehicle. Sogefi's sales depended upon new car purchases.

The new automated assembling equipment and plastic injection molding equipment make Prichard's new engine intake manifolds possible.

"More and more of the vehicle is made out of plastic and not metal," Thomas said.

The expansion will include modifications to the current plant beginning in January and finishing by May. The plant will repurpose the existing 250,000 square feet of production space and the warehouse and office area.

Wayne County Economic Development Director Don Purdue said the investment announcement was a "big deal." Purdue described the jobs as "good-paying with a company that has a future."

Purdue said Sogefi officials had to be convinced they would continue to do profitable work in the state, have the right kind of state government assistance, have the right kind of work force available and believe all those things would make Sogefi successful in the future.

Thomas also added 2014 will be the first time Sogefi has a contract with General Motors.

"We had been anticipating an expansion for some time but I had no idea it would be on this large of a scale," Purdue said. "It kind of blew me away. It was a much bigger announcement than I anticipated."

Hiring for skilled positions such as engineers, quality staff, supervisors and maintenance technicians will start in January.

Reach Caitlin Cook at caitlin.cook@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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