Johnson Controls to add jobs

09/27/2011 12:00 AM

09/27/2011 6:10 AM

Johnson Controls announced Monday that it plans to move work to its Wichita plant from its plant in Norman, Okla., creating 182 jobs here.

The new jobs join the 990 people that now work at the Wichita plant. Hiring will begin in two to three months, but the workers will initially be employees of temp agency Staffmark.

The company will spend about $2.6 million to move the necessary equipment from Oklahoma.

"At the end of the day, it shows that Johnson Controls is committed to Wichita and this factory," said Rob Cornett, controller for Johnson Controls Unitary Products Group, which includes the Wichita facility.

The Wichita plant, 3110 N. Mead, makes home furnaces designed for the inside of a house and air conditioners for the outside. The new lines will make combined furnaces/air conditioners and heat pumps/air conditioners.

The company started making the combined units in Mexico. Johnson Controls announced plans in 2008 to move jobs from Mexico to Wichita and was given forgivable loans by local government, but never used them.

Instead, it moved the work to Norman. The Norman plant makes commercial heating and air conditioning units, a business that has held up better in the downturn than the home versions have.

The move to Wichita just makes sense, Cornett said. The Norman plant is crowded while the Wichita plant has unused capacity and workers there have seen improvement in productivity and safety in the past two years.

That, coupled with incentives offered by the city of Wichita and Sedgwick County, made the move financially possible, he said.

The city and the county have each pledged $42,500 in forgivable loans. If the company employs 182 people on the new lines each year for five years, it won't have to repay the loans.

The incentives were coordinated by the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition. The Wichita City Council and Sedgwick County Commission must formally approve the incentives.

"It's a real win-win for the community," said Suzie Ahlstrand, interim head of the coalition.

Johnson Control's Wichita operation can trace its history to the 1920s as the heating and air division of the Coleman Co. Coleman sold the operation to York International in 1995, which was bought by Johnson Controls in 2005.

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