A Japanese supplier to Toyota, Nissan and Honda will be the second industrial occupant for the Kentucky Tri-Modal Transpark.

Howa Textile Industry, the sole parent company of Howa USA, will buy 24 acres in the transpark to construct a custom-built, 82,000-square-foot facility that will build dash insulators, headliners and other interior products for the automotive industry.

Howa USA's site will be directly across from the Bowling Green Technical College site in the transpark on Commonwealth Boulevard.

&#8220We're thrilled that the announcement of the new automotive parts manufacturing facility at the transpark and look forward to proving any work force training that is needed,” said Nathan Hodges, president of Bowling Green Technical College. &#8220The mission of the college involves the delivery of training to produce a highly skilled work force capable of meeting the dynamic and changing needs of industry. The training offered at our new transpark center provides a pipeline of new workers ready to utilize high value advanced manufacturing techniques.”

Howa's $10 million investment includes the purchase of new equipment and an upgrade to building fixtures, with the expectation that 61 new full-time jobs paying a median income will be created when the plant begins production in December or January, according to Jim Hizer, president and chief executive officer of the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce.

Lexington-based Gary Construction, which built Kobe Steel's facility in Bowling Green, is the contractor for the project.

&#8220Our business in the USA has been growing rapidly,” Akiyori Shibuya, president of Howa Textile, said in a news release. &#8220In order to meet the needs of our current and future customers, we are very pleased to announce our decision to establish a production facility in Bowling Green's Kentucky Transpark. We are most grateful to the state of Kentucky, the city of Bowling Green, Warren County and the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce for their wonderful support.”

Gov. Ernie Fletcher added his congratulations, saying &#8220with the talented and skilled work force in this region, Howa will no doubt be able to surpass its already high expectations for this new facility.”

Hizer estimates Howa's annual economic impact in five years at a direct payroll of about $4.86 million, at least $900,000 in payroll for jobs created outside the company and $2.42 million that would be pumped into the local economy.

The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority has given preliminary approval to Howa USA for tax benefits of up to a $1 million under the Kentucky Industrial Development Act, an incentive program designed to attract and expand manufacturing operations in the state.

Howa USA also plans to apply for benefits under the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act, a program that allows approved companies making an investment of $500,000 or more in Kentucky to recoup state sales and use taxes on the cost of construction materials, building fixtures and equipment used for research and development.

Howa Textile Industry Co. was established in 1955 to make auto parts such as headliners, door panels, dash insulators and sunshade trims, and it created Howa USA in 2004.

A groundbreaking is tentatively scheduled for May 24 at 10 a.m. for Howa USA's new facility.

Howa deal result of ‘relationships'

Of the 12 new factory announcements made in Kentucky last year, Hizer said, only four included brand new buildings - making this announcement very significant.

Hizer's relationship with Howa USA began in 2001 when he worked to build up economic development in Richmond, Ind., the site of Howa's first manufacturing facility three years later.

&#8220So when I moved to Kentucky (in 2004), I maintained the relationship with them because I realized that eventually they were going to need a production facility in the South to serve their current and future customers,” Hizer said.

Since becoming president and CEO for the chamber, Hizer has visited Japan several times and, in 2005, took along Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon and Bowling Green Mayor Elaine Walker.

It was during a dinner with Howa that year that &#8220they advised us they were accelerating their plans for a second U.S. production facility,” Hizer said.

Since 2005, Howa has visited southcentral Kentucky several times, according to Hizer, and earlier this year they finally decided that the transpark was going to be their best option.

Howa had considered expanding in Indiana instead of building a new plant, but told Hizer last fall they were considering a brand new building instead.

Walker said Howa will be offered a rebate on the city's occupational tax as an incentive through its Job Development Incentive Program, subject to final approval by the city commission.

Howa USA joins a growing list of internationally recognized companies that have discovered that southcentral Kentucky is &#8220not only a great place to grow their business but also a great place to grow a family,” Walker said.

Buchanon also mirrored Hizer and Walker's comments.

&#8220Southcentral Kentucky is so fortunate to have attracted a company such as Howa USA,” Buchanon said. &#8220It is gratifying that the Kentucky Transpark has, once again, demonstrated itself as a value-added new business location for world-class employers.”

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