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|GDT breaks ground to expand Monroe plant|
Dozens of Gardner Denver Thomas employees proudly watched Wednesday as company executives, local officials and Gov. Bobby Jindal officially broke ground on the company's 80,000-square-foot expansion project in Monroe.
Gardner Denver Thomas announced in April it would consolidate and move its Sheboygan, Wis., operations to its Monroe facility. Local and state officials have said the move will create roughly 300 new jobs for the area by the end of 2011.
Dr. Dwight Vines, Monroe's economic development officer, recalled meeting with other city officials and Monroe Chamber of Commerce representatives after receiving word Gardner Denver Thomas planned to consolidate its operations. Everyone, according to Vines, expected GDT executives would make the easy choice and move its Monroe operations to the company's Sheboygan, Wis., facility. Monroe had fewer employees, around 70, and was the smaller operation compared to Sheboygan, which included more than 300 employees.
"I have to say it did not appear at that time that odds were in our favor, but we were enthusiastic and committed to the project, and we went to work," Vines said. "One thing I will remember about this effort is the fact we had everyone involved working together. It truly was a team effort at the local and state level."
Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo said there were many challenges local and state leaders faced in convincing GDT to consolidate its Sheboygan operations at the Monroe facility.
"Quite frankly, I did not know if we would be able to meet those challenges," Mayo said. "But we were able to work it out and we were able to get it done. This is something we are all proud of because we are bringing good jobs to the city."
GDT has hired 74 new employees at its Monroe plant since announcing the consolidation, including 63 production workers and 11 office workers. Also, the company's consolidation is moving faster than anticipated. Seven production lines have moved from Sheboygan to Monroe, with an additional eight lines expected to move over the next year.
After the consolidation is complete, GDT will become one of Louisiana's top 200 economic-driver firms, as measured by direct and indirect job impact.
"Today's groundbreaking sends a strong signal that Monroe and Louisiana are competing at the national level to win jobs for our people," Jindal said. "It also marks another example of our aggressive work to attract more businesses and create more jobs so we can keep our people here at home."
Jindal and Gardner Denver Thomas president and CEO Barry Pennypacker agreed that in the end it was the employees at the Monroe facility which gave Monroe the edge.
"I want to thank the workers right here because the No. 1 reason these great men have decided to choose Monroe for this expansion is because of the productivity, flexibility and commitment of the men and women who work here," Jindal said.
Another reason why GDT decided to pick Monroe was because of the local and state support it secured during the process, Pennypacker said.
"I cannot say enough about the amount of effort put forth into making this possible," Pennypacker said.
When GDT announced its decision in April, Louisiana FastStart began developing and delivering a customized recruitment process for the company, Jindal said.
Louisiana FastStart has delivered more than 4,800 hours of customized training to GDT, which is more than any other project since the program was established, Jindal said.
FastStart is an initiative administered by Louisiana Economic Development Corp. It readies workers to meet the needs existing and new employers may have in expanding or developing their businesses.
As part of the incentives package to lure Gardner Denver Thomas to Monroe, the state committed a performance-based grant of up to $9 million for relocation expenses from the state's Rapid Response Fund.
The state also provided $193,000 from the Rapid Response Fund to assist Louisiana Delta Community College in training certified manufacturing specialists.