MTU's vice president honored by Gov. Haley as plant expands

MTU expansion

It was 2010 when MTU made the move down to Aiken County from the Detroit area. (WRDW-TV / April 30, 2012)

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Friday, April 27, 2012

GRANITEVILLE, S.C. -- It's another busy day at MTU's plant in Graniteville. About 13 large diesel engines will be shipped off to consumers around the world.

"No, they don't go in the little pickup trucks," joked Vice President of North America Operations for Tognum America Joerg Klisch.

He says the largest engine they build actually weighs about 400 tons.

They run big tractors, colossal generators and even tanks and cruise ships, but they weren't always made in Aiken County.

"When we came here, everybody was very open, everybody was very accommodating," Klisch said, summarizing the business climate in Aiken County.

In fact, it was 2010 when MTU made the move down to Aiken County from the Detroit area. He says between unionized labor and an unfriendly tax structure, growing a company was too hard there.

He says the move from Detroit also increases efficiency incredibly . A diesel engine took 27 days to build. Now, it takes only about 11.

He says Aiken County government continues to help. They recently approved a financing plan to help MTU expand. It was an economic endeavor code named Project Bench.

"Project Bench has several components. The major component is actually two development test-cells," Klisch said of the $40 million expansion.

Test cells are used to test engines before shipping. It'll also add 20 more jobs to a facility that's already created 250, and he says most of them are locals.

"As we continue to grow, we will for sure add more jobs to the site," he said. "We found a place here in Aiken where we would like to grow, where we would like to serve our customers, and we plan to be here for a very long time."

Those test cells they're building in the expansion are also known as test benches. That's where that Project Bench codename comes from.

Klisch says he wants to continue his legacy of hiring locals, and he says he knows of Graniteville's plight over the years.

When he first moved down to Aiken County in 2010, he had Aiken Tech professors come in and train a workforce. They didn't need advanced degrees but just a desire to work. He says that's another big difference between Aiken County and Detroit. Down here, he says, people want to work, and he hopes to put a lot of them back to work.

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