German Company’s Faith in Ohio Workers Helps Community Hit Hard by Job Losses
Valerie Puckett and her family had no intention of leaving their home in Norwalk, Ohio. But when a local manufacturing plant shut down in 2014, Puckett and her husband were two of nearly 300 residents who lost their jobs.
The company’s decision to close left the Pucketts and the entire Norwalk community reeling. “Norwalk had already experienced a great amount of loss during the recession,” Norwalk Mayor Rob Duncan said. “We’d lost approximately 1,000 jobs already, so this was a devastating time for our community.”
The Pucketts found work in Missouri and followed their packed moving van out of town. Other residents, however, weren’t so lucky. Norwalk just didn’t have many employment options.
But that was about to change. Around the time the manufacturing plant was preparing to close, German automotive supplier Borgers AG began searching for a location to build its second North American manufacturing facility. Werner Borgers, company CEO and a fifth-generation member of its founding family, had just started thinking about the search when representatives from JobsOhio came to his company’s headquarters in Bocholt, Germany.
“Amazingly, they showed up in my office before we had even started the selection process,” Borgers said. “There must have been something in the air.”
Borgers USA Corp., a division of the parent company, had some tall orders. As a company that produces textile automotive products like trim, carpet and insulation for commercial and passenger vehicles, Borgers USA had to find a community with workers skilled enough to keep pace with the demanding production process of its customers. They also needed employees who could come to the job highly trained, trained with experience working on complex machinery. Norwalk satisfied both requirements.
Once Borgers USA narrowed its choices to two communities, the final decision came down to which one could meet their aggressive timing requirements the best. In the end, the city of Norwalk offered everything that Borgers USA needed. From the people, to a site that was ready to build on in a very short timeline, all the right ingredients were there for Borgers USA to be able to put Norwalk on the top of their list.
“It was the whole community that was the real difference,” said Borgers when the announcement was made that Borgers USA selected Norwalk. “Norwalk is a great location regarding logistics as it relates to our Midwest customers, and the labor force is exceptional and highly motivated. In addition to that, we feel that there is a great emotional fit between the people in Norwalk and the values and characteristics of our family business.”
Looking back, Borgers says he was also impressed by the collaboration of the community, the state and JobsOhio.
Borgers USA invested $60 million in the Norwalk facility, which began operations in 2015 and will employ as many as 230 once it’s running at full capacity. The company’s decision to build its second North American plant in Ohio brought back a lot of good jobs – and even some former residents.
Valerie Puckett and her family are Ohioans once more. “We would not be back in Norwalk if Borgers USA had not decided to come to Norwalk.”