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By DOUGLAS WATSON
TELFORD -- Two new Japanese-owned manufacturing plants in Washington County that employ a number of Greene Countians held a "joint grand opening ceremony" on Monday.
It was a day of celebration for Koyo Corporation of USA and Nakatetsu Machining Technologies, whose plants are adjacent to each other in the Washington County Industrial Park along U.S. 11E, only six miles east of the Greene County line.
Joining the celebration were Tennessee and Washington County officials who had succeeded in attracting the two manufacturing plants, which began their coordinated production earlier this year.
$38 Million Investment
Development of the Koyo and Nakatetsu plants is expected to involve investment of about $38 million by the year 2013, according to P.C. Snapp, executive director of the Washington County Economic Development Board.
Among those on hand for the occasion were at least 30 Japanese executives and managers. About half of them had made the 14-hour flight from Japan, while the others came from various Japanese-owned facilities around the United States.
Tom Wada, a Koyo vice president and the top executive at its new plant where the ceremony was held, was the master of ceremonies.
Wada told about 100 invited guests, many of them Washington County officials, that, after considering sites in five states, the Japanese companies had chosen to locate there "because of the people" in Washington County, whose friendliness and welcoming spirit had much impressed them.
Wada said the two adjoining and related auto-parts manufacturing plants had "achieved our goal" of starting production by mid-2008. They began shipping products on June 20, 2008.
The 80,000-square-foot Koyo plant currently has 52 employees, while the 70,000-square foot Nakatetsu plant has 35 employees. Most of the employees at both plants are Americans.
A Koyo plant executive said that about one-third of the employees are Greene County residents.
After a buffet lunch was provided for the guests, the guests went to the production floor, where a stage had been erected under American, Tennessee and company flags to hear congratulatory and "thank you" remarks from eight officials.
Top Executives Present
* Koshi Yoshida, vice chairman, JTEKT Corporation, which owns Koyo Corporation of USA. JTEKT's headquarters are in Nagoya and Osaka, Japan;
* Hisami (Henry) Takagi, president of Koyo Corporation of USA and chairman, of JTEKT Group JTEKT North America;
* Katsumi Okita, senior managing director, Nakatetsu Corporation;
* Mike Flynn, vice president for global procurement and supply chain management for American Axle, a customer of the plants' products;
* Brady Phillips, director, global supply chain management, Eaton Truck Group, also a customer;
* Atsushi Kume, senior vice president, Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing - North America Inc., also a customer;
* Washington County Mayor George Jaynes;
* Charlie Giffen, director of national recruitment with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.
A donation of $10,000 -- $5,000 from Koyo and $5,000 from Nakatetsu -- was presented to the Dawn of Hope facility in Washington County that assists mentally handicapped persons.
That donation was announcd by Stan Kirkpatrick, manager of the Koyo plant, and Takaeshi Kasai, vice president of Nakatetsu Machine Technologies.
The two plants' "grand opening" concluded with a Japanese ceremony called Kagami Biraki -- a Japanese phrase that means "opening the mirror" -- during which the participating executives donned colorful, traditional Japanese coats.
Kirkpatrick explained, "Seventeen hundred years ago the fourth Shogun Tokugawa was the first to hold this ceremony. Before going to war, he would gather his feudal lords in his castle to break open a sake cask. The battle was successful, and so was born a new tradition."
Kirkpatrick added, "These ceremonies are still performed today. They are seen at weddings, sporting events, and starting new companies."
However, he confided that the casks used at Koyo's celebration contained water and not sake, a Japanese fermented beverage made from rice.
The guests were then offered tours of the Koyo plant. No photographing of its new equipment was allowed.
Executives of Koyo Corporation of USA broke ground in March 2006 for the new manufacturing facility.
The plant is operated by Koyo Corporation of USA, a wholly-owned subsidiary of JTEKT Corporation.
JTEKT employs 30,000 people globally and is one of the world's largest automotive component suppliers. Its customers include Toyota, Honda, General Motors, Ford, DaimlerChrysler and BMW.
Koyo and Nakatetsu Inc. of Tennessee formed a joint partnership called Nakatetsu Machining Technologies, LLC, which is operating the facility next to the Koyo plant.
The new Koyo plant is the company's third factory in the United States; the other two are in South Carolina.
Koyo makes different types of taper roller bearings, which are components in vehicles' transmissions, hub sets and axles. The plant does heat treating and finishing work on the bearings sent to it from the Nakatetsu plant.
The Nakatetsu plant does initial work on forged bearings shipped to it from a plant in Georgetown, Ky., operated by Koyo Corporation.
It then transfers the bearings to the Koyo plant, which is only about a quarter-mile away.
Wada has said the Koyo plant's current production capacity is 15,000 bearings daily, but after December, when a second heat-treating furnace will be installed, "We will be capable of producing 30,000 bearings a day."