By Dennis Seid
VERONA – In a global search to produce its advanced commercial refrigeration compressor, Tecumseh officials picked its Mississippi plant over facilities in India, China and eastern Europe.
In doing so, 150 jobs will be added in the next five years.
“It was very competitive,” said Jim Connor, Tecumseh’s president and CEO. “We looked at wage costs, we looked at many factors. It was not at all a slam dunk.”
State and local officials, including Gov. Phil Bryant, and economic developers were recognized for their efforts in convincing Tecumseh to invest $10 million and add to the already 350 jobs at the Verona plant.
The Mississippi Development Authority is loaning Tecumseh $4 million and giving it $600,000 for infrastructure and other work.
In a separate agreement earlier this year, MDA loaned the company $1.5 million for new equipment purchases.
Production of the AE2 compressor begins this fall.
“We’re competing on everything all over the Southeast, the nation and the world,” said MDA Executive Director Brent Christensen. “We give the same effort and resources to bring to a new company we’re recruiting as to existing businesses that are expanding.”
Tecumseh’s decision to build its newest compressor also is an example of reshoring – bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., as some work from Brazil will shift to Verona.
“This is our flagship product of our company line,” Connor said. “We’ll make it here, and we’ll sell it in Europe, the U.S., India and China.”
Connor said additional investments of $3 million to $5 million are possible, depending on future growth.
While several other plants worldwide make components for the compressor, the Verona facility is the first to have everything built and assembled under one roof.
Darlene Knight, Tecumseh’s vice president of manufacturing and quality, said the Verona workforce is “at the forefront of everything we do” with its Tecumseh Optimized Production System, or TOPS, the company’s lean manufacturing program.
“We had options all over the world, but we saw a great opportunity here,” she said.
Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Tecumseh, a pioneer in the development of compressors for refrigerators and air conditioning, built its Verona plant in 1975. The facility produces compressors and condensing units and also serves as the company’s North American distribution hub.
David Rumbarger, president and CEO of the Community Development Foundation, said Tecumseh’s decision to produce its newest compressor in Lee County is a testament to the workforce and the state’s industry-friendly environment.
“We have to compete on a different scale, especially with the wage scales. … so having workforce stability and reliability, great logistics and government that embraces business allows us to compete globally,” he said.