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DICKSON COUNTY INDUSTRIAL PARK HELPS DRIVE AUTO INDUSTRY
Employment Numbers Rise to Pre-Recession Levels; Suppliers Cite Increased Orders

DICKSON, Tenn. – Automotive sales in the United States were up 26 percent year-over-year in May, a trend that manufacturers in the Dickson County Industrial Park say has boosted employment numbers to pre-Recession levels.

Dickson County Chamber of Commerce President David Hamilton says that’s one of a number of positive indicators he’s tracking locally.

“We’ve seen the addition of 400 jobs over the last 12 months in the Industrial Park alone, and the completion of State Route 840 this fall will help with supply-chain logistics for our auto industry suppliers and several other sectors,” Hamilton said. “There’s interest from other employers who are considering Dickson County, as well, thanks to our location, strong workforce, pro-business government and quality of life.”

Bob Bowen is the plant manager at Metrican Stamping, which produces seat frame assemblies for General Motors, Chrysler, Toyota and Volkswagen. The Canada-based company just finished a 15,000 square-foot expansion at the Dickson facility, and has a new 1,350-ton press on order to meet anticipated demand. Bowen says they’ve added 50-60 employees this year so far.

“The Recession affected everyone in the automotive business, and we were fortunate to absorb the production slowdown without any major layoffs,” Bowen said. “It helped tremendously to be diversified among several car manufacturers and product lines. Business is full steam ahead, and it seems like everyone (in the Industrial Park) is saying the same thing.”

Metrican, which runs three shifts, hires predominately from within the county, and is working with the local high school and Tennessee Technology Center to develop an apprenticeship program. 

Down the street from Metrican, Valley City, Ohio-based Shiloh Industries, Inc. is manufacturing stamped and welded components—inner-body structures, pillars, and heat shields—for Honda, Nissan and Toyota. The company is currently installing equipment to supply the Nissan Smyrna plant with products for the new Nissan LEAF vehicle. Production is scheduled to begin in October.

Assistant Plant Manager Mart Rowe says employment numbers have tripled from the lows of the Recession; Shiloh employs more than 300 today, and sales continue to grow, with five new product lines added this year. 

“The components we manufacture are days from our automotive clients’ production lines,” Rowe says. “We’re continuously working to enhance our ‘Just In Time’ production and delivery process for our customers.”

Rowe says the completion of State Route 840 could improve those logistics. Gerald Burgess, human resources manager at Nemak, Inc., agrees. With headquarters in Monterrey, Mexico, and 28 manufacturing facilities in 13 countries, his company produces aluminum heads for Chrysler, Ford and Hyundai. For Nemak, the bypass will eliminate the loop around the city of Nashville to I-65 South, and Hyundai’s Montgomery, Ala., plant. 

Burgess says his operations are back to near full capacity, and he credits the employee work ethic for efficiencies that helped the company rebound from the dip in U.S. auto sales. 

“A large part of our success is attributable to the employees that are available in Dickson and surrounding counties,” Burgess said. “The support of the Chamber, the local government and the entire community is unparalleled—it’s a true partnership for everyone involved in what happens in this Industrial Park.”

Dickson’s geographic location plays a role, too, Burgess says. His facility is less than two miles from Interstate 40, less than 30 miles from downtown Nashville, and within a day’s drive of its customers’ locations.     

Sumiden Wire, a Japanese company, has been operating from the Dickson County Industrial Park for more than 20 years, manufacturing primarily spring wire that ends up in Fords, Lexuses and Volvos, according to General Manager Brian Burr. The stainless steel wire may be used in a vehicle thermostat, a throttle return—or it could end up in aircraft, military firearms, even nuclear applications, depending on the material and diameter.

Burr said the medical segment of the business is growing too, and that Sumiden is producing very small diameter wire for invasive procedures, designed to protect the walls of the arteries during angioplasty. 

Sumiden’s customer base is located all over the United States, and in Europe. Burr sees opportunity in the 840 expansion, as well.

“We are looking for the highest caliber employee, and people come from all over to work here,” Burr said. “Most of our staff is local, but 840 will allow for us to draw talent from a much broader area.”

It’s another signal that the area west of Nashville is poised for growth. And it underscores a consistent message, one that Hamilton says he hears regularly: “Dickson County is a great place to do business.”
 
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