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Monroe company to build electric motors for GM

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JAMES P. LEUTE
April 1, 2010
— Dislocated auto industry workers in the area will have a crack at 30 jobs at a Monroe manufacturer that has landed a contract to produce electric motor components for General Motors.

Orchid International has a prototype for the engine, which is intended for a new line of sport-utility vehicles, said Bob Borremans, executive director of the Southwest Wisconsin Regional Workforce Board.


Limited production is expected to begin in the next 18 months, and the product will be unveiled in 2013, he said.


“You will see a fully electric vehicle driving around Monroe,” said Keith Cornacchia, Orchid’s laminations group director.


Cornacchia and Borremans were joined in Monroe on Wednesday with Department of Workforce Development Secretary Roberta Gassman and U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin to announce joint federal and state investments to retrain displaced autoworkers for new clean energy jobs at the plant.


Borremans said the company will get a $100,000 grant to hire 30 workers displaced by auto industry cutbacks.


“The Monroe facility has really become Orchid’s shining star, and they’re bringing more and more work to the facility,” he said. “If this takes off, it could be a major production operation.”


Three or four workers will be hired immediately and the rest in 2012, Cornacchia said.


Orchid operates in a plant that once housed Advance Transformer, a company that made wiring harnesses and ballasts for the lighting industry before consolidating its operations outside of Monroe. The company planned to close the plant before Orchid bought the factory in 2004, Cornacchia said.


“What Orchid found in Monroe was a high quality workforce that had experience with stamping and laminating,” said Anna Schramke, executive director of the Green County Development Corp.


“Orchid has been able to leverage that experience to help the company.”


Borremans and Schramke said Orchid’s contract with GM has long-term ramifications.


“I’ve seen some of the things on the horizon, and the potential for this plant is exciting,” Schramke said. “Any time we can have a project that brings people back to work, it is a significant project.”


Because of the large number of autoworkers unemployed in Rock County, Schramke said, many of the new workers likely will be hired from the county.


“But we have people laid off in Green County by the auto sector, from Woodbridge, for example, and they will certainly qualify for these positions,” she said. “It’s targeted at dislocated auto industry workers, not necessarily dislocated GM workers.”


Borremans said the Orchid engine will be targeted to GM fleet SUVs and will likely be shipped around the country. He said he’s had no indication that engine production in Monroe is in any way tied to possible assembly operations in Janesville.


“This is really good news for the area, and the potential is there for this to be a really lucrative product for Orchid,” Borremans said. “It will just take a while to get there.”


Orchid International is a supplier of metal stampings, assemblies, lamination stampings and die casting products and services to the automotive, appliance, lighting, electric motor, lawn and garden and other industries in North America.


In addition to Monroe, it has manufacturing plants in Tennessee, Texas, Canada and Mexico. The Monroe plant employs 146 people.


—Monroe Times reporter Brian Gray contributed to this report

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