TERRE HAUTE —
The rebounding auto industry is bringing hundreds of new manufacturing jobs to the Wabash Valley.
North American Lighting, an Edgar County, Ill.–based maker of automobile lighting, announced Thursday it is investing $50 million to expand its Paris plant, creating 300 new jobs for the area.
Many of the new jobs will be at the operator level, which pay about $14 per hour, said Greg Conrad, North American Lighting president and chief operating officer.
The company, whose products include head lights and tail lamps, plans to construct a new, 200,000-square-foot facility for the expansion. Production is slated to begin in March of next year, Conrad said. NAL already operates from a 250,000-square-foot facility in Paris.
North American Lighting currently pulls workers from all across the Wabash Valley, including Terre Haute, Conrad noted. The company will likely conduct job fairs in the fall, and large-scale hiring is expected in early 2014, he said.
On top of the 300 planned new jobs, NAL’s investment will also mean even more indirect jobs through construction and other services, said Adam Pollet, director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
NAL has two years to create the new jobs according to its agreement with the state of Illinois, which provided some investment incentives.
But, “I think that this is a company that is very aggressive and sees a real growth opportunity and it’s ready to break ground to start construction of the new facility and start the hiring as soon as possible,” Pollet said.
The company will hire 233 workers in the first year and 77 in the second year, a state official said Thursday.
Edgar County has an unemployment rate of about 11 percent, well above the Illinois statewide rate of 8.6 percent. Surrounding counties in Illinois and Indiana have equally high levels of joblessness.
“We anticipate that these [new] jobs will be pulled from that workforce area,” Pollet said. “We’re very happy to see a major manufacturer expand there … in terms of the unemployment in that area. We want to bring that down,” he said.
North American Lighting, a unit of Japan’s Koito Manufacturing Co., is “committed to serving as an economic anchor for southeastern Illinois,” Conrad stated in a State of Illinois news release issued Thursday. “The auto industry is growing and so are we.”
After several slow years, auto sales in the U.S. were expected to surpass 15 million this year and, in 2014, top 16 million, a figure not seen since 2007, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is providing incentives for the company, including a $1 million grant under the Large Business Development Program. NAL is also eligible for a $150,000 Employer Training Investment Program grant and an Economic Development for a Growing Economy tax credit valued up to $3.2 million over 10 years. The tax credits are provided only if the company creates the jobs promised.
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org