Appliance maker Roper Corp. to expand in LaFayette, Ga.

Appliance maker Roper Corp. to expand in LaFayette, Ga.

August 7th, 2013 by Ellis Smith in Local Regional News

Stoves move through an assembly line at Roper Corp.'s plant in LaFayette.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

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ROPER CORP.

• Established 1973

• 1,500 workers

• Plant covers 1.1 million square feet, or 25 acres of its 62-acre campus

Source: Roper Corp.

Site of Roper Corp. expansion

Photo by Laura McNutt/Times Free Press.

Roper Corp. will spend $88 million on an expansion at its LaFayette, Ga., plant, as part of a $1 billion investment that GE is making in its cooking products production lines.

The additional production line will bring new jobs to a plant that was forced to cut workers during the recession, a turnabout that has drawn the attention of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson — both of whom will speak to the plant’s 1,500 workers Friday.

Roper Corp., a subsidiary of GE Appliances, sent 300 employees home during the recession because of a lack of work, as demand for stoves and ovens plummeted by more than a third amid a general housing malaise.

The largest non-government employer in Walker County eventually brought most of those workers back, and it could add dozens more as part of GE’s “insourcing” initiative.

The initiative seeks to move major operations back to U.S. plants from overseas, where many plants were moved during the 1990s by manufacturers seeking sources of cheap labor. Advances in automation technology, increased shipping expenses, exchange rate fluctuations and rising overseas labor costs have brought many of those operations back to the U.S.

Scott Ossewaarde, president of Roper, credited the plant’s location and lean manufacturing methods with its survival through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

“We have a geographic advantage, because being located in middle America gives us a transportation edge,” he told the Times Free Press in 2010.

Officials would not comment on the number of new workers or the exact nature of the expansion, though a spokeswoman said the plant would be producing raw materials that were formerly shipped in from suppliers. Deal is expected to reveal more details when he visits later this week.

The last big investment was in 2008, when Roper invested $165 million in improvements and expansions.

<em>Contact staff w</em><em>ri</em><em>ter Ellis Smith at esmith@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6315.</em>