Officials with Japanese truck manufacturer Hino Motors announced plans Wednesday to expand their West Virginia manufacturing plant into the abandoned Coldwater Creek warehouse facility in Mineral Wells. The announcement, made by Hino Motors Manufacturing U.S.A. President Takashi Ono and attended by local, county, state and federal dignitaries, will mean 250 jobs at the 1-million-square-foot Coldwater Creek facility.
“The new plant, which is four times the size of our current plant, will allow us to combine several assembly operations under one roof, which will provide significant efficiency gains,” Ono said. Since 2007, Hino Motors has been operating a truck assembly plant in Williamstown. That plant will be closed. Ono said the company plans to invest $100 million in the new Coldwater Creek plant.
In a company press release timed to coincide with Wednesday’s 7 p.m. press conference, company officials said the new plant will build medium-duty trucks in addition to new vehicles being introduced into the market. “In addition to producing Hino’s current award-winning lineup of conventional trucks, the new truck assembly plant in West Virginia will produce a new line of Class 7 and 8 trucks which Hino plans to introduce in 2019. The truck will be powered by Hino’s proven A09, 9-liter engine. Already sold in many other markets around the world, the Hino A09 engine will have a horsepower range from 300-360 HP. Hino is planning a public reveal of the new truck at the 2018 NTEA Work Truck Show,” company officials said. “These are truly exciting times for Hino in the U.S.,” said Yoshinori Noguchi, CEO of Hino North America. “Our growth and customer acceptance in the Class 4-7 market are enabling us to introduce a wider variety of products.”
The Coldwater Creek warehouse has been idle since that company declared bankruptcy in 2014. Hino executives worked with state and local development officials to buy the facility.
State Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher said West Virginia has had business ties with Japan for decades. Rod Rogers, assistant to U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., said Hino is already the third-largest truck manufacturer in the United States.
Hino officials are hoping to double their market share over the next six years.
“We are confident they will double in employment by 2020,” Rogers said.
U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also had representatives at the press conference.
The Wood County Commission, city of Parkersburg and city of Williamstown also were represented.
“Since their launch in 2007, Hino continues to expand their workforce and their operations, proving that our workers can compete in a world economy and that West Virginia is a great place to do business,” said Manchin.
“Their announcement of an additional $100 million investment in operations, along with plans to hire 250 more employees, solidifies their vote of confidence in our state. This announcement is another example that by working together, we can continue to create and keep jobs in West Virginia,” Manchin said.
“Hino Motors has always been an effective partner in helping to grow the economy and create jobs in West Virginia, and this significant new investment will do even more to help our state,” said Capito. “West Virginia has cultivated a special relationship with Japanese automotive manufacturers, and Wednesday’s announcement furthers that bond.
“Not only will it make a real, tangible difference for Parkersburg and surrounding communities, but it also sends a strong signal that West Virginia is a great place to do business. This is a welcome announcement that I know will have a positive and long-lasting effect on our economy and create hundreds of new job opportunities for hardworking West Virginians.
“It is also a reminder of how much we have to gain by fostering an environment that makes businesses want to invest in West Virginia, and I will continue working to make our state even more attractive to companies like Hino.”
Gov. Jim Justice was unable to attend the event.
Thrasher explained that, as the governor was driving up the interstate to attend the press conference he got word that his daughter, who is pregnant, had taken a bad fall. Thrasher said the governor turned around to join her at the hospital.
But for Williamstown Mayor Jean Ford, news of the expansion was bittersweet. Over the years, Ford said, Hino and town residents had become like family. She said plant workers would help elderly town residents.
Ford said she was happy for Hino’s expansion but sad at the thought that the company would be leaving Williamstown.