By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – With his wife’s first baby on the way in December, Blake Ivy wanted to be sure he had a stable job with opportunities to advance.
Ivy, 27, thinks he’s found both with Grammer AG, the German automotive supplier that’s building its newest manufacturing plant in the Tupelo Lee Industrial Park South in Shannon.
“I’ve been a furniture frame builder for seven years,” he said, “but I was looking for more stability and better opportunities. Sometimes I’d work 20 hours, sometimes I’d work 40 hours. And I’ve been making the same thing for seven years.”
Ivy joined 11 other new Grammer employees on Monday at the Manufacturing Solutions Center at Itawamba Community College’s Belden Center.
They’re the first batch of Grammer workers, whose numbers should swell to 111 by the end of December.
“These first 12 will train for three weeks through ICC’s program they’ve developed, then we’ll bring in a production line for another six weeks of training,” said Robert Dexter, Grammer’s human resource manager here.
Grammer, which announced in February it was moving its U.S. headquarters to Shannon, will employ 350 during its first phase of construction. In its second phase of expansion, it will hire up to another 300 employees.
Initially, Grammer will produce commercial seats for customers like Caterpillar, John Deer and Bobcat. The second phase of production will add automotive seating.
The training, Dexter said, is hands-on, with workers learning about quality, lean systems and other work production processes utilized at Grammer.
“We plan to be in full production by Oct. 1,” he said. “So we’ve got a schedule to adhere to.”
Grammer has five production lines it is moving from Hudson, Wisconsin, to its new U.S. headquarters in Shannon.
As each group is trained, the next production line is established, so the employees must be ready when operations begin.
“Our focus is safety and quality,” Dexter said, adding that Grammer will ensure all of its workers are properly trained before they begin production.
The company worked with ICC to build its training program, with the school sending several instructors to Hudson to observe and learn the processes involved with assembling seats. They then developed the training program with Grammer.
Monday’s first training session, which will be repeated during the next three weeks, involved having the new trainees learn to assemble and disassemble tractor seats the company makes for commercial customers. Later, they’ll learn the same processes for automotive seats.
Hundreds have applied for positions with the company, Dexter said. Those interested should apply at the WIN Job Center located in the ICC Belden Campus building.
Starting pay during the training process is $11.25 an hour, with the rate rising after a probationary period and dependent on the job position, Dexter said.
For Ivy, leaving a company where he enjoyed working was a tough decision, but he said it was a choice he didn’t take lightly.
“No job is entirely safe, but I think this puts me in a better position than where I was,” he said. “I was looking to God to open another door of opportunity, and this was it.”