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Honda pumps $215M into two Ohio sites

By Thomas Gnau - Staff Writer

Honda’s new $215 million investment in its Ohio operations will protect Honda jobs here, a spokesman for the automaker said Wednesday.

The automaker announced Wednesday that it add new powertrain technologies and a technical training center at its engine plant in Anna while it builds a technical training center and a heritage center in Marysville.

About $180 million of the money will go to the Anna plant, which employs about 2,400 people and is about an hour’s drive north of Dayton off Interstate 75.

Honda’s total investment at the Anna plant over the last three years exceeds $500 million. Honda employs about 13,700 in Ohio.

About 60 jobs are being added in Ohio as a result of organizational changes and training operations in a new building near Marysville, said Mark Morrison, a spokesman for Honda North America Inc. The new training center near Marysville will have 16 employees.

Honda is putting more money into its Ohio operations because it is exporting more vehicles from Ohio and the company sees itself as a global manufacturer meeting high customer expectations and federal fuel standards, Morrison said.

In December, Honda reached the 1 million mark in total automobile exports from the U.S. Honda exported more than 90,000 automobiles from North America in 2012. That number will rise to 200,000 annually in coming years, the company said.

“It takes a highly skilled labor force to do that,” Morrison said.

This new investment is in new technologies and the training and education of employees, he said.

“If you look at the Honda operations in Ohio, it’s already the centerpoint of our engineering capabilities for North America,” Morrison said.

The Anna investment is tied to the new Honda “Earth Dreams Technology” engines and transmissions, meant to offer customers fuel-efficient vehicles that are “fun to drive,” Morrison said.

The investment will not go to robotics that might lessen the need for employees, Morrison said. In Anna, the investment will expand aluminum die casting capabilities. There will also be a technical employee training center.

In Marysville, a new building will house another technical training center, a heritage center and office space. Construction has started on that $35 million, 160,000-square-foot building, Morrison said. That site is expected to open in fall 2014.

The Marysville heritage center will highlight Honda’s history in Ohio and North America, and provide office space for the new Honda North America Services LLC operation in Marysville, the company said.

These new investments bring to nearly $2.7 billion the amount Honda has invested in its North American operations in the past three years, the company said.

“Even as we introduce more sophisticated technologies in our products and in our plants, we are working to ensure that our associates are equipped with the skills required for the manufacturing requirements of the future. We view this investment in Honda people as critical to our future success,” said Rick Schostek, senior vice president of Honda North America Inc.

Honda has 13,700 Ohio employees including more than 1,000 who commute from the Dayton-Springfield area to a Troy distribution facility and other company sites in the state. The company has more than 155 suppliers in Ohio. (Honda does not break down supplier locations by cities.)

A Honda spokesman told the Dayton Daily News in June that half of all vehicles built in Ohio have a Honda badge.

State leaders welcomed the news.

“This is great news for Central Ohio and a testament to the skill of its autoworkers,” Sen. Sherrod Brown said in a statement. “It is because of workers like those in Anna and Marysville that one in every six cars produced in the United States is made in Ohio.”

“This is another great example of Honda’s commitment to Ohio and Ohio’s commitment to Honda, not only in terms of the investment dollars the company spends, but the good jobs they provide to Ohioans,” said Kristi Tanner, managing director for JobsOhio, the state’s private development arm.

Honda operates 14 major manufacturing facilities in North America.

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