M-Tek welcomed to Talladega
by Chris Norwood
Talladega’s newest industry made its public debut Thursday morning at M-Tek in the Coosa Valley Industrial Park.

The company, which makes interior trim pieces for Honda, currently employs 54 people, but that number is expected to increase to 128 by the end of the year. The company employs a total of 3,200 associates in five plants nationwide. The company reported earnings in excess of $700 million last year.

Alabama is the only state where the company has two plants, with the other being Prattville.

After a ceremonial ribbon cutting, M-Tek general manager for human resources Howard Tucker welcomed all of the dignitaries and gave an introduction to the company. They have had operations in the U.S. since 1986, he explained.

“I’d like to thank everyone for playing the many roles, individually and collectively, that helped make this a reality,” he said before introducing M-Tek Inc. president and CEO Masaki Susigawa.

Susigawa explained that the Talladega plant was built specifically to support Honda Manufacturing of America, and thanked that company, the Talladega County Economic Development Authority and state, county and local governments who had paved the way for Thursday’s event.

“We are proud to be a part of Alabama, and to be hiring people from Alabama. We look forward to hiring more.”

Gov. Robert Bentley said he was glad to “have a chance to get out of Montgomery and deal with the most important part of my job, creating more jobs.”

Bentley said Alabama now ranks fifth among states for automobile production, having produced some 800,000 vehicles last year.

“The parent companies are important, but they also bring in suppliers who create even more jobs. And as the parent companies expand, so do the suppliers.”

Bentley went on to note that “partnerships between local and state agencies and Coosa Valley are crucial, the most important factor is the workers. So thank you for what you do. Alabama has the best, the hardest working work force in the country. As I travel the state, I visit different industries and see what they make. The workers always stop and speak, but they keep working. And you can be proud that if you see a Honda or an Accura in another part of the country, you probably helped make part of it. I recently had the opportunity to tour an Airbus plant in Hamburg, Germany, and when I got there, everyone was outside, either eating or smoking. I was told they were all on break. Workers in Alabama take breaks too, but not like that. So take pride in your hard work. Thanks for what you do, and thank you, M-Tek for locating a second plant in Alabama.”

Mayor Larry Barton, suffering from laryngitis, said “This is a great day in our city. We’re always excited about announcing new jobs.”

Barton then recognized City Manager Brian Muenger, Council President Donnie Miller and Councilman Ricky Simpson, as well as Fuller. “They’re on call for you 24/7,” Barton said before turning to Bentley and saying, “You’ve been big on being conservative your whole time in office. Well, we’re conserving that ribbon so we can use it again.” Bentley didn’t cut the ceremonial ribbon.

Mark Vandevelde, division manager for purchasing for HMA, spoke next. “M-Tek started in the U.S. in 1986, and I started working with HMA in 1987. My first business trip was to the M-Tek plant in Tennessee. All through that time, we’ve expanded. There have been some hard times, too, but we continue to build on our partnerships and build in the markets we serve. This plant will be serving the Honda plant in Lincoln, just down the road. It will save transportation costs, it will save on parts inventory and it will benefit the end user. We can respond quickly to any problems. Mr. Honda believed in the power of dreams. Building great manufacturing partnerships in North America is part of that dream. A Greek philosopher once said that ‘hope is a waking dream.’ My hope is that we will be gathered here again soon, either for an expansion or for an award in the near future.”

Kuniyuki Watanabe, president of Kasai Kogyo Co. Ltd., parent company of M-Tek, was next, saying, “M-Tek is the most important business unit in our group. We can continue to achieve our goals and objectives. When we work together, we can all share in the fruit of our collective effort. We hope to earn the trust and support of this community.”

County Commission Chairman Kelvin Cunningham introduced state Sen. Jerry Fielding, commissioner Greg Atkinson and County Administrator Wayne Hall before welcoming the company to Talladega County. “We have a work force that is willing and able,” he said. Honda, EDA Director Calvin Miller, Coosa Valley and many others made this happen. We’re here to do anything we can to assist you.”

EDA chairman Cleve Jacobs was the last speaker. He said, “Twenty years ago, there was a vision of an economic development authority. The county commission and all the cities eagerly bought into that vision. We formed the EDA, and Talladega County is now an industrial magnet. We partnered with Gov. Bentley, our legislative delegation, the county commission and other local offices. Joseph Birchfield has not been mentioned so far, but he’s here from the state Department of Commerce. Jim Wynn and Leland Fuller go with us and the First National Bank to build a speculative building here. We met here a year ago with Calvin Miller to look at the gravel, and now we have this. Welcome to Talladega County. We will enjoy your being here.”

After lunch, plant manager Dale Grant gave a tour of the new facility and explained how the plastic mold injection process works. Right now, the primary emphasis is on rear liners for the Honda Pilot, with a capacity of 725 to 750 per shift on a 55 second cycle.

Contact Chris Norwood at cnorwood@dailyhome.com

© 2013