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Joy Global might upgrade Longview facility, take down iconic domes

By Sherry Koonce
July 25, 2012 at 10 p.m.

A little more than a year after Joy Global purchased LeTourneau Technologies in a $1.1 billion cash acquisition, the Wisconsin-based company wants to upgrade the Longview facility and expand its wheel loader product line.

Among plans are the removal of most of the "LeTourneau domes." Though iconic, officials said the domes are inefficient.

To make the planned upgrades, the company hopes to create at least 30 additional full-time jobs and expand its work force training capabilities.

Joy Global representatives told the board of Longview Economic Development Corp. that they would like to see $13 million invested in upgrades. They prefaced that by saying they had not yet received the go-ahead from its corporate office to proceed.

In an effort to sway Joy Global's Wisconsin-based corporate offices to invest in its Longview facility, LEDCO board members agreed Wednesday to offer the company a $300,000 grant to offset company expenditures.

"They have other facilities across the world. They have to compete with all those other plants for corporate investment dollars," said Susan Gill, LEDCO executive director. "We hope this will show Joy Global that the Longview community supports them, is behind them and wants them to grow."

Longview upgrades would include an expanded training facility to teach or enhance specialized welding skills, and a facility transformation that would include replacing concrete, safety improvements and ventilation upgrades, said Randy Klocke, Joy Global vice president of Wheelloader Products.

Joy Global manufactures and markets original equipment and after market parts and services for the mining industries.

The company's products and related services are used extensively for the mining of coal, copper, iron ore, oil sands, gold and other mineral resources.

The Longview facility can train two employees in two to six weeks, he said. The company hopes to add facilities to train 10 to 20 at once in the same amount of time.

Klocke said the company would add 30 employees over three years. Salaried employees for the full-time jobs would make $80,000 to $90,000. Hourly employees would earn $35,000 to $40,000.

Finding the right talent with the right skill-set, and those who can pass a drug test, is a challenge at all the company's facilities, including Longview, Klocke said.

If the domes are removed, the company likely would save one and open it as a museum, he said.

LEDCO's grant will be staggered over a three-year period and is tied to Joy Global meeting certain goals: The company will be required to invest $7.5 million over the next three years and create 30 new jobs during that time period, Gill said.

Joy Global must invest $1.9 million by the end of 2012. By the end of 2013, the company must have invested another $3.5 million and created at least 10 new jobs.

By 2014, an additional investment of $2.1 million must be made and 10 jobs be created.

In 2015, another 10 jobs must be added for a total of 30.

Gill said the company first approached LEDCO in June about the possible facility upgrades.

"We are just thrilled. This shows Joy Global is investing in our community. We are hoping they will continue to invest here and create jobs," Gill said.

When the company invests $7.5 million, it will have an impact of $136.6 million in the community, Gill said.

"Those dollars turn over. For every one job a manufacturing plant creates in our community, four jobs in other sectors of our community are created. It could be somebody at a grocery store, bank or an accountant, you just never know," Gill said.

Klocke said he expects Joy Global to make a decision on whether to spend the money at the Longview facility in the next few quarters.

"Right now, these are just visions," he said.



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