NOW HIRING — Andrew Perry, Textron/Cessna, discusses the future plans for the Independence plant and their employment opportunities. Steve McBride | Staff Photo
NOW HIRING — Andrew Perry, Textron/Cessna, discusses the future plans for the Independence plant and their employment opportunities. Steve McBride | Staff Photo

Thursday was a day of celebration at the quarterly Celebrate Independence event at the Masonic Lodge with local industries, Standard Motor Products, Textron Aviation and VT Hackney, celebrating their expansion news. The event was sponsored by SEKTAM of Independence.

The three leading industries in Independence were introduced by Trisha Purdon, executive director for Montgomery County Action Council. "It's obvious we are all interested in hearing the latest news from our three largest manufactures in Independence. Our three speakers have a total of 73 years of employment with their current employers which means we have a lot of expertise and skilled people running our major organizations in Montgomery County."

Jackie Pittman, Standard Motor Products plant manager, took the podium to tell of the changes now taking place at the Independence plant. "We employ about 300 people with the average age of 50 years old with years of service averaging around 17 years," said Pittman.

The big news as Pittman said,"Working with economic people from the area we began looking at ways we could increase our employment. We decided we could move our Orlando facility that makes electronic parts to Independence." she said. The move will create approximately 20 support positions and 20 engineer positions. Currently the company is halfway through the transition of moving production into the facility. 

Another highlight Pittman was most excited about was the oil pressure unit that has been made in Mexico. "You always hear stories about what left here and went to Mexico or China. I'm here to announce that this part went to Mexico and we are bringing it back to Independence. It has only happened through the efforts of our engineers, managers and supervisors in our facility. We spent $1.3 million to buy the equipment to move it here and we actually make the part cheaper than what Mexico or China did. Not only did we bring manufacturing back here we are getting ready to bring the part we buy from China back into our production line. We will be launching that project in 2018," she stated.

A concluding note: Standard Motor Products is preparing to celebrate their 100th anniversary of business in April 2019. "We are looking at having a lot of celebrations. This is a big event for Standard Motor Products and we are excited about what we can do in the community," Pittman said with smile.

More exciting employment news was shared by Andrew Perry Textron Aviation Value Stream manager. "We are very proud of our facility in Independence and what we do here," said Perry. The facility occupies over several hundred acres at the Independence airport, with five manufacturing buildings incorporating over 520,000 square feet of manufacturing space and they currently employ approximately 500 people. Textron/Cessna produces six different models of aircraft at the Independence plant, the 172 Skyhawk, 182 Skylane, 206 Stationair, TTX, Citation M2 525 jet, and the newest addition to the Cessna plant, the 208 Caravan. 

"More pilots in the world have learned to fly in the Cessna 172 aircraft than any other aircraft. Also, there have been more Cessna 172 aircraft produced than any other aircraft in the world. These aircraft are produced right here in Independence," said Perry.

The assembly of the Caravan began in the Independence plant in August. Five planes are now working through the plant and are currently on schedule for three of these aircraft to be delivered to customers by the end of this year. "Since the Caravan assembly has moved to the Independence plant the sale of the aircraft have been very strong. We are increasing our rate of production to meet the sales demand," said Perry. 

The plant has added employees because of the increased production and they are continuing to add positions. "We are now going to add a night shift which is good news for us. That means, we are hiring, we need people. We have a lot of entry level positions as well as diversified skilled positions we need to fill," he said. 

Textron/Cessna will be conducting an Independence Hiring Fair at SEK KansasWorks Job Center, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2 to 6 p.m., 317 N. Penn. Ave.

VT Hackney Steve Potter, VT Hackney general manager, shared the company's history and its future as well as its current hiring for positions in the plant. The plant site consists of approximately 28 acres with 220,150 square feet of manufacturing space and employing 190 people. 

VT Hackney was founded in 1946 with the company headquartered in Washington, NC. The corporation currently has four facilities around the country producing both Hackey and Kidron products. They are located at Washington, NC, Montgomery, Pa, Kidron, Ohio and Independence. 

In 1972, Hackney built their plant in Independence. They currently employ 190 people. "We have had some employees that just retired that were with us for 44 years. We have some amazing people working for us," said Potter. 

In 2016 the company produced more than 1,400 bodies and trailers with 2017 on schedule to meet that number again or better. 

The products that are produced in Independence are: beverage delivery bodies, beverage delivery trailers and specialty trucks. 

The Independence plant is the only division that produces the beverage delivery trailers, insulated beverage bodies and trailers of Hackney and Kidron products. 

Potter stated, "We are currently looking to hire about 30 employees in the next three to four months. Kansas has a fantastic reputation in the company and that has a lot to do with how we got the expansion of the Kidron plant in Independence."