By ERICH L. RUEHS
10:47 AM EDT, July 15, 2011
HARRODSBURG — More than 700 Hitachi employees, including upper management from Japan and across the country, attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday in honor of the company's expansion, which will create 145 new jobs over the next three years.
Harrodsburg's Hitachi plant already employs 2,000 workers. Gov. Steve Beshear was on hand in September when the company broke ground for the $48 million project.
Kunihiko Ohnuma is the company president and chief executive officer who made the trip in from Japan to personally address Harrodsburg's Hitachi work force. Ohnuma shook hands with local political figures such as Mayor Eddie Long and Mercer County Judge-Executive Milward Dedman, delivered a speech and concluded the festivities by sharing Lee's Famous Recipe chicken with everyone in attendance.
“I am very impressed with the Harrodsburg facility and everyone who works here," Ohnuma told the crowd. “And that is why we feel so confident in this expansion.”
Ohnuma also thanked everyone in Kentucky who contributed to Japan’s earthquake and tsunami relief after the disaster devastated parts of the island nation in March.
The chairman for all of Hitachi’s American operations, Takashi Hatchoji, said plants such as the one in Harrodsburg represent some of company’s finest operations in the entire world. “And with plants such of this, Hitachi is becoming a leading force in the entire automotive industry in the world.”
Hatchoji said Hitachi’s working relationship with the United States, the state, and local representatives in Mercer County and Harrodsburg made the day possible.
Masaaki Fujisawa, head of the Harrodsburg plant, said sales are increasing at a rate never before seen.
“This may be our first expansion since 1995, but even during the last 16 years, we have been extremely productive.”
The plant’s senior vice president of operations and general manager, Doug Bowling, thanked the company’s upper echelon for choosing Harrodsburg for the expansion.
“There are a lot of places that Hitachi could have chosen for their expansion, but they chose us," said Bowling, who pointed to large wall at the end of the new building.
"And before you know it, we'll be expanding again, when we knock that wall down over there for our next expansion in the coming years."
Top executives weren’t the only ones celebrating Thursday morning. Richard Abbey has been with Hitachi’s quality department since November 1997. “I have seen Hitachi grow from a small family organization of under 200 employees to the current corporate leader you see today,” said Abbey, who believes the secret to the company’s success has been its long-term vision.
“Hitachi always does the best job at securing long-term work for her employees and does so with honesty and integrity,” Abbey said.
After the ribbon cutting, Mayor Long, Judge-Executive Dedman and Jill Cutler, executive director of Mercer County Chamber of Commerce, gathered around the small pieces of red ribbon that the Hitachi brass tore to pieces with gigantic scissors and handed out for souvenirs.
Cutler said expansions such as Hitachi’s not only help Mercer County’s reputation as an industrial force in the Bluegrass, but also help its reputation as a great place to live.
“We’re expanding in every way possible,” said Cutler.
“Just yesterday, we joined the folks at Save-A-Lot that moved into a bigger structure which resulted in 12 new jobs, and now we’re celebrating with our friends at Hitachi who will add hundreds of jobs in the coming years. Big, medium or small, there’s no such thing as a bad expansion.”
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