ROCK SPRING, Ga. — GE Appliances will invest $118 million to expand manufacturing operations at its Roper Corp. plant in Walker County, Georgia, creating 600 new jobs by the end of 2024, officials said at a news conference Tuesday.
"This decision didn't happen overnight," said Robert Wardlaw, the county's economic development director. "Over the past couple of years, our team has focused on removing obstacles that hinder job growth, including housing and transportation. We have an amazing relationship with the folks at Roper and GE Appliances, and I'm thankful for their willingness to partner with us on solutions."
Asked why he thought Walker County was selected as the location for this expansion, Wardlaw said he could not speak for the company but hoped it was because of the established relationship the Roper Corp. already has with LaFayette and the region.
Roper Corp. President Lois Crandell appeared to confirm that the company's ties to the region were a factor in the decision in a statement Tuesday, noting that Roper Corp. has been a "key part" of Walker County for nearly five decades.
The company has been in Georgia since 1973 and employs 2,000 people in the surrounding area. In 2019, GE Appliances invested $43 million in Roper Corp., creating 100 jobs at the LaFayette facility. It also became the first company to open a facility near the new Appalachian Regional Port in Murray County, taking advantage of the Georgia Ports Authority's inland rail infrastructure to increase the flow of parts and components to its nine U.S. manufacturing plants.
Once the expansion in LaFayette is complete in 2024, Roper Corp. will employ about 2,600 people in Northwest Georgia. It will also have hired more than 1,000 new employees in the state. In addition, GE Appliances spends $77 million with Georgia suppliers.
"Our relationships are strong and we have thrived here," Crandell said in a statement. "The investments made in 2019 and those announced today together will increase our plant capacity by 50%."
The vice president for manufacturing at GE Appliances, Bill Good, said investing in U.S. manufacturing allows the company to be closer to its consumers and better serve them, which is critical to its business strategy.
"Our partnership with Georgia is strong and getting stronger as we continue to build innovative, industry-first cooking products at Roper," he said.
The expansion will increase the company's production capacity and provide for the addition of advanced manufacturing technology. The LaFayette plant produces cooktops, free-standing ranges and wall ovens under the Monogram, Cafe, GE Profile, Haier and Hotpoint brands. Those products are produced as part of Georgia Made, a state program created to celebrate the people and industries responsible for manufacturing a wide variety of products across the state.
New opportunities at the facility, located at 1507 Broomtown Road in LaFayette, will include supervisory and management positions as well as careers in production and assembly. New employees will have the opportunity to earn as much as $17.50 an hour plus benefits on the first day of work, and the company intends to offer a 401(k) retirement program with the company matching up to 8% of participating employee's contributions. All Roper employees and their families can also use the company's on-site wellness center that offers medical services, including primary care services, and could be eligible for up to $40,000 in tuition reimbursement.
In a news release, Crandell said hiring to support the expansion has already begun. Individuals interested in jobs with Roper are encouraged to visit ropercorp.com for more information.
Walker County Board of Commissioners Chairman Shannon Whitfield praised Roper Corp. as a "valuable corporate citizen," noting that the expansion benefits not only LaFayette and Walker County but other nearby municipalities as well.
"As the county's largest employer, Roper Corp. has also been a valuable corporate citizen for many decades," Whitfield said Tuesday. "We admire their commitment to community outreach, and we are grateful for their continued desire to grow locally. This expansion will provide opportunities to strengthen our workforce and the community as a whole."
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp also praised the company for its expansion efforts and the "strong logistics infrastructure" that made it possible.
"It is a pleasure to see GE Appliances invest in the Peach State in this way and continue to emphasize doing business with a leading Georgia-based supplier," Kemp said in a statement. "This announcement is a testament to our strong logistics infrastructure, which is supported by the Appalachian Regional Port, and to our strong logistics infrastructure, which is supported by the Appalachian Regional Port, and to our strong talent pipeline in Northwest Georgia."
LaFayette Mayor Andy Arnold, who also chairs the Walker County Development Authority, said he was thankful for the help of state Sen. Jeff Mullis, the Northwest Georgia Joint Development Authority and the state of Georgia for help ensuring local industry thrives.
Contact Kelcey Caulder at email@example.com or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @kelceycaulder.