You could probably say Gov. Terry Branstad felt right at home when he came to GKN Wheels in Estherville Friday.
The company could in fact be a centerpiece of Branstad's STEM initiative, in which the governor calls for a major commitment to train the state's future leaders in science, technology, engineering and math.
Upon Branstad's arrival, general manager Stephen Dusold outlined the company internationally, nationally and locally.
Alan Wilson, plant director, and Stephen Dusold, general manager, gave Gov. Terry Branstad a tour of the GKN Wheels plant in Estherville Friday.
EDN photo by Michael Tidemann
Dusold said GKN, a 250-year-old company with four divisions, has 48,000 employees in 32 countries and on five continents, speaking 27 languages. He highlighted the divisions - driveline, metallurgy, aerospace and land systems, the latter which GKN Wheels falls under with plants in Estherville, Armstrong, Wichita, Kan. and Woodridge, England, the technical center.
Dusold said the Estherville plant has 220 employees and generates $80 million in revenue while Armstrong has 215 employees with $70 million in revenue. The company plans upgrades and investments locally of $4.1 million this year and $4.5 million in 2014 and $5 million in 2015.
"Our goal is to be competitive globally," Dusold said.
Alan Wilson, plant manager, said the company is moving into manufacturing larger wheels - 54 inches in diameter - to meet market demands.
Michelle Nicoson, director of human resources, said the company has a $30-million annual payroll, spending $10 million a year with local vendors and making $40,000 in local donations each year.
Nicoson also reviewed GKN's training programs, community involvement and wellness initiative.
Nicoson said GKN needed help from the state of Iowa in making housing available for employees, skilled trade workers, funding for internal job training programs and continuing its partnership with the governor's STEM program.
Branstad thanked GKN for its investment in Iowa and renewed his commitment to business and industry by increasing jobs, pushing through a property tax rollback to be backfilled by the state and pledging his commitment to make Iowa first in the nation in education.
He said the Iowa Finance Authority has programs to help with worker housing and pointed to the National Career Readiness Certificate program administered by Iowa Workforce Development.
Branstad also noted recent international investment in Iowa, including $1.8 billion by an Egyptian fertilizer company and $100 million in an Osage biotech plant by a Japanese company.
While pointing to the Obama administration's "war against coal-fired plants," Branstad said power from wind was becoming increasingly efficient.
While not committing either way to running for reelection, Branstad said if he did not run, Kim Reynolds, his lieutenant governor, would get his endorsement.