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Modern manufacturing is not a 'dingy' place

Robert Houk • Oct 5, 2018 at 11:37 PM

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, joined area government and higher education leaders on a tour of A.O. Smith’s 600,000-square-foot water heater plant in Johnson City on Friday to mark National Manufacturing Day.

The U.S.-based manufacturing company, which has operated the local plant since 2006, employs 1,003 at its Johnson City operations.

Mike Galloway, human resources manager for A.O. Smith, said the plant at 1100 E. Fairview Ave. produces 6,000 water heaters a day. He said the publicly traded company, which was founded in 1874, has production facilities across the United States and around the globe.

Lowe’s Home Improvement is the largest distributor of A.O. Smith’s water heaters and related products in this nation.

Before touring the plant, Roe said he had seen reports that confidence in the manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy “is at an all-time high.” The congressman said 93 percent of businesses say they have expanded recently, or they are expecting to expand their production lines in the near future.

Galloway told Roe; state Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough; Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy; and officials from Milligan and Northeast State Community colleges that his corporation also hosted a similar tour of the plant for 175 area students from Cloudland, David Crockett, Elizabethton, Hampton and Unaka high schools on Thursday to mark National Manufacturing Day.

He said  A.O. Smith’s new motto is: “A good place to work.”

He said with entry-level pay at $18.06 an hour, high school graduates can embark on productive careers in manufacturing.

“One of the biggest challenges we face is finding people to work, particularly with the unemployment rate as low as it is,” Galloway said.

Carol Peters, director of operations at the water heater plant, said modern manufacturing facilities are not the same “dark and dingy places” people might recall from the past.

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