NGK plans expansion at Kanawha County factory

NGK Sparkplugs in Sissonville is set to expand for a fifth time. The Japanese company will soon begin construction on an 11,000-square foot facility that will house the manufacturing of high-tech oxygen sensors. “As our vehicles move toward higher fuel efficiency as mandated by the government, this kind of technology becomes very important,” said Bob Pepper, senior vice president of manufacturing and operations at NGK.The federal government is pushing automakers to design cars and trucks with more fuel-efficient engines.


Pepper said consumers shouldn’t see much of a change, but automakers will definitely note a difference.


“The customer will see a small amount of change,” he said.


“The automaker will obviously gain from it. The spark plug meets the tech of the engine design we’re moving toward — smaller, higher compression, more flexible design.”


NGK first built its manufacturing plant off Interstate 77 in 1994. It was one of the first Japanese companies to locate in West Virginia, joining the likes of Nisshin and Toyota. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., was instrumental in bringing Japanese-based companies to the Mountain State, and he said he’s excited to see NGK expanding.


“This new expansion reaffirms what I know to be true: West Virginia has the best workers in the world,” Rockefeller said in a statement.


“I know that the team members at NGK will be able to handle anything sent their way and I thank the company for continually putting their faith in us.”


Along with the expansion comes 34 new jobs. Pepper said some of those positions will be filled immediately, while some hiring will take place throughout the year. Jobs at NGK start at $11.50 an hour and include a benefits package. Potential job seekers can contact NGK’s human resources department for information. Pepper said NGK officials are meeting with construction companies and have begun the bidding process. A final decision is expected in January. Construction should begin in February and should be completed in September. That’s when the assembly line will arrive from Japan. Pepper said the company will work closely with new employees to properly train them to manufacture the new products.


“Our focus is always on quality,” Pepper said.


“We don’t launch a product unless we’re 100 percent ready.” NGK makes about 36 million spark plugs and 16 million sensors per year. Pepper said the expansion will give the company added capacity.