Diesel engine plant opens doors to show operations

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The roar of engines resounds in MTU Detroit Diesel's newly opened Aiken plant.

Painter John Ingardia removed masking tape after painting a Series 2000 diesel engine in November at the MTU Detroit Diesel plant in Graniteville.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Painter John Ingardia removed masking tape after painting a Series 2000 diesel engine in November at the MTU Detroit Diesel plant in Graniteville.

Workers have been busy turning out the large diesel engines since the plant officially opened in October, and on Wednesday public officials and business leaders got a glimpse of the revamped 270,000-square-foot facility during a grand-opening celebration.

"I don't have the money for a big yacht or I'd put one of your engines in it," South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford told MTU executives during the event. "But I am sold. Your company has a commitment to excellence."

The company already has 80 employees working at the site and 50 more are expected to be hired by summer to manufacture engine components. By 2014, the work force could total 250 people.

"The work force we have recruited down here has exceeded our expectations," said Joerg Klisch, MTU's director of operations.

Locally, 50 people were hired, and 30 other employees relocated from the company's now-shuttered plant in Detroit. MTU selected the 50 local workers from an applicant pool of about 1,200 people, Klisch said.

MTU is part of German-based Tognum Group, and the company sent 10 Aiken workers to Europe for additional assembly line training, Klisch said. Those workers returned and helped train other employees, he said.

The old SKF Building in Sage Mill Industrial Park has been redesigned by MTU with an eye to expansion. The company has bought 100 acres of adjacent land to accommodate possible growth.

The site will have the capacity to make thousands of Series 2000 and Series 4000 diesel engines and represents a $45 million investment from Tognum Group. The engines are used for marine craft, agricultural and industrial equipment, and land defense vehicles.

The industrial jobs are vital for economic strength, said U.S. Rep. J. Gresham Barrett.

"The commitment to manufacture here in the United States of America is huge," said Barrett, R-S.C. "It's what built us and what made us who and what we are."

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