Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Komatsu hiring 100 more at Longview plant

By Ken Hedler
Oct. 25, 2017 at 11:39 p.m.

Its business bolstered by improvements in the global mining industry, Komatsu Mining Corp. has hired more than 100 employees so far this year at its plant in South Longview and is working to fill another 100 positions.

"Orders are picking up, and we have the work," said Caley Clinton, a spokeswoman for the company in Milwaukee.

The reason, she said, is that mining companies are coming out of the recent economic downturn "ready to invest in capital and new equipment."

Komatsu bought Joy Global Inc. in April for $3.7 billion.

The plant off Estes Parkway has hired welders, machinists and assemblers, Clinton said. The hiring so far has brought the plant's total workforce back to 520 employees. Another 100 would push total employment back to where it stood before Joy Global began layoffs in late 2015.

Komatsu will fill the other openings "as soon as possible," Clinton said. "We are actively hiring. We are actively recruiting."

Komatsu manufactures equipment for the mining, forestry, industrial and construction industries. That segment has been bouncing back as commodity prices and construction demand has increased in China and elsewhere.

Komatsu's hiring push came as good news for Wayne Mansfield, president and CEO of the Longview Economic Development Corp.

"We've been working with them," Mansfield said. "We certainly have been assisting them with their new hires, and we are excited. Komatsu is a recent partner for us."

The manufacturer is among a handful of area companies that have increased hiring over the past year, helping to reduce the September unemployment rate for the three-county Longview metro area to 4.6 percent, the lowest it's been since it dipped to 4.5 percent in April 2015.

For example, Nucor Steel, which announced in July 2016 it was buying a specialty steel mill from Joy Global for $29 million, has hired from five to six people per month in recent months and, as of a week ago, had 177 workers on the payroll, controller Corey Allain said.

While Komatsu has been hiring, Clinton said the company is not immediately acting on plans that surfaced in February for Joy Global to build a new $4.4 million office and industrial facility in South Longview.

This year's change in ownership was just the latest for the Longview plant that was long known as LeTourneau Technologies Inc. In 2011, Joy Global purchased it for $1.1 billion from The Rowan Cos. At that time, it employed more than 1,000 people at facilities in Longview and Kilgore.

Rowan had owned LeTourneau since 1994, when it purchased operations from another Houston firm — Marathon. Under Marathon, the Longview plant had been known as Marathon LeTourneau.

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