On a day of fitting tributes that paid homage to America’s finest — our veterans — Whirlpool and community leaders did the same. They did so against a pair of inspiring backdrops that gave us a reason to believe in the economic livelihood of Cleveland and Bradley County, as well as the more touching people-helping-people component of our culture.
On Veterans Day, Whirlpool executives locally and from the company’s U.S.-based headquarters in Benton Harbor, Mich., as well as hundreds of cheering employees, broke ground on the new 1.4 million square-foot factory and distribution center. Their shovels were joined by those of local government leaders like Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland, Bradley County Mayor Gary Davis, members of the Cleveland City Council and Bradley County Commission, and representatives from economic development movers and shakers like the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce and the Industrial Development Board.
It was assuredly an economic and employment coup for our community because the new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility will be energy-efficient and LEED-certified; and perhaps most importantly, its $120 million value signals a huge investment in the regional economy as well as a pronounced message by Whirlpool that the company believes in our community, our workforce and our future.
Too, we should mention the new factory will add 130 new jobs to its existing workforce of some 1,500 employees.
On the people side of the day, just four hours following the historic groundbreaking, Whirlpool officially dedicated a Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland house in the Century Village Subdivision that 112 of its employee volunteers constructed as part of the Whirlpool Building Blocks annual initiative that for the first time brought its hammers and nails to the host-community level.
Whirlpool employees and Habitat for Humanity core team members constructed the house in a 20-day Blitz Build that trumpeted two major anniversaries. The completion of House No. 79 earmarked the 20th birthday of the Habitat for Humanity affiliate and it recognized the 100th birthday of Whirlpool.
The entire day served as an appropriate stage for Whirlpool to acknowledge its belief in our community and its faith in our people. The new Whirlpool plant is a pivotal gift to our hometown’s economic base and the Habitat home is a touching reminder of the company’s softer side.
We admire Whirlpool Corporation for its investment in time and energy for the enhancement of our community from both economic and people perspectives. We thank this global business leader for all it has done, is now doing and will do in the future to strengthen U.S. manufacturing, while retaining its Cleveland-based functions as a viable cog in the company’s total operation.
It is appropriate to remember that Whirlpool is represented in our community not just by a massive manufacturing facility, but also by an engineering and technology division and its award-winning call center located on 20th Street.
It has been said before and is no less true today.
Communities in other cities, states, regions ... and yes, countries ... would cherish the opportunity to lure away large employers like Whirlpool from Cleveland and Bradley County.
It is a fact of life.
It is a part of business.
Both point to the importance of a strong partnership between community, government and business — one focused on fulfilling mutual needs, maintaining direct lines of communication and remembering the big picture in all decisions, current and future.
We congratulate Whirlpool on their special day, one appropriately shared with another American centerpiece — our veterans.