LOWNDES COUNTY — Company officials will gradually add parts machining over the next couple of years at PACCAR’s diesel engine plant here after workers assembled some 1,300 engines at the facility since around June.
State, local and company officials formally dedicated the plant Monday evening and took groups on a tour of the facility overlooking U.S. 82 just north of Golden Triangle Regional Airport. PACCAR is the parent company to the Kenworth and Peterbilt commercial truck lines.
The company decided to build its facility here in May 2007. Construction started in February 2008 and crews added assembly equipment to the facility in January.
PACCAR MX engines were available in Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks beginning in June.
Since the start of construction, there have been 1,151,276 hours and 1,028 days at the plant without a lost time injury, company officials said in a statement on the facility.
After the formal ribbon cutting and tours PACCAR Chairman and CEO Mark Pigott and Gov. Haley Barbour briefly spoke to local media representatives.
“It’s just a wonderful day for PACCAR just to be welcomed into the state of Mississippi,” Pigott said. The welcome, community spirit and partnership which has developed at the state and community level and Mississippi State University “has been outstanding, really has exceeded our expectations,” he said.
“When I got here three years ago, the first thing I said (is) ... ‘it’s good to be home;’ and now I feel like I built a home and really back in the neighborhood. So it’s a special day for all of us and I think for the state and the local community,” Pigott said.
Gov. Haley Barbour said: “PACCAR’s a world-class company that builds the premier, big tractor-trailer trucks in the world. ... There are not five brands and two of them are PACCAR brands – Kenworth and Peterbilt.”
“One of the things I’m proud of and when we recruited them to come here three years ago, they had never built their own engines. If you ordered a Peterbilt truck or a Kenworth truck you asked ‘Did you want a Cummins engine, you want a Caterpillar engine?,” Barbour said. “Both excellent engines,” Pigott added.
“And they decided to make the first the first engines they ever manufactured in North America here in Mississippi. It speaks volumes about the quality of our work force, the pro-business environment and our educational institutions,” Barbour said.
In earlier remarks to the audience, Pigott said the company has invested $300 million in the facility.
Pigott mentioned PACCAR’s $2 million donation to Mississippi State University. The contribution allowed the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems to expand its capabilities and it endowed the chair for mechanical engineering, he said.
“We’re excited about this partnership. Go Bulldogs,” Pigott said to applause.
During his remarks to the audience he said is the fourth generation family member to lead PACCAR and added that the company is celebrating 105 years of technology leadership.
Employment at the plant currently stands at 103 workers. Company officials hope to grow this number up to 500, Pigott said to the media representatives. During the media time, Barbour mentioned Pigott’s reference to MSU. The governor also said Pigott had talked to him about East Mississippi Community College. “Tremendous resource,” Pigott added.
Barbour said “Between PACCAR and East Mississippi, we’re able to take Mississippi high school graduates and train them to work here ... “ Pigott added: “It’s really a high-tech environment.”
“...You guys come back in 30 years and it’s going to be like it is today. That’s our commitment. We’re an environmental leader, we’re a quality leader. We’re all about family and employees. That’s what we bring...,” Pigott said.
“...They’re doing this the right way. They didn’t come up here and try to hire 500 people the first six months. They are determined to be a success as you would ... expect from a company that’s made a profit for 72 consecutive years,” Barbour said. “The reason is, they get it right. ... They’re building this up from now 100 employees to what will be 500 employees in a rational way that gets the very best out of the employees in this incredible precision manufacturing process,” Barbour said.
The facility is now an assembly plant but it “evolve into a full machining plant, ... and that’s going to start happening middle of next year... we’re just going to ramp it up in a very steady system,” Pigott said.
“We sell the world’s best. ... We’ve got the world’s best employees here and we’re going to sell the world’s best product so we want to make sure we do it in a very systematic way on a very rigorous schedule,” he said.
The ramp-up of machining will take place over the next couple of years, Pigott said.
He said 1,300 engines assembled at the plant in Lowndes County have already been installed in Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks. Twenty-five percent of all the company’s products in North America now have an engine put together at the plant, Pigott said, “and we’ve only been in business for a couple of months.”
Over time, company officials expect this percentage to grow.When asked what one thing the local community needs to know about PACCAR, Pigott said: “Quality. You know, people say, describe PACCAR. Quality, quality, quality in everything we do; People, products, services, investments; it’s all about quality.”