WTHR tours Connersville factory up and running after seven-year closure
There is new life inside an old factory in east-central Indiana.
Only Eyewitness News was allowed inside the Wayzata Home Products plant in Connersville for a tour of the facility that started production in early March.
The sprawling building that dates back to the 1950s started as Philco, became Ford and then Visteon. It sat idle for nearly seven years after Visteon closed and moved out back in 2007.
In the years after the closure, there was much fanfare but next to no jobs created by Carbon Motors, a start up by William Santana Li that was to build the next generation of police cars. Li's plan failed to come to fruition.
As the aging plant sat empty and deteriorating, Connersville leaders continued to market the building, and sold it to Wayzata late in the summer of 2013.
Crews have been renovating the building ever since. While that continued, manufacturing started in early March.
"I came up here to the job fair and there were 1,700 people up here within two days and only seven of us originally got hired," said Connersville resident Kris Gossett.
Gossett was one of those seven and tells Eyewitness News he considers himself lucky.
"It's almost like hitting the lottery here. Jobs are hard to come by," Gossett said.
The first finished product rolled off the assembly line just a few weeks ago and is just part of the fury here.
"We're sort of ending construction, bringing in inventory, and manufacturing all at the same time," said Tim Melillo, Senior VP of Product Development and Engineering with Wayzata Home Products.
Products for cabinets come in from Minnesota and are stored in Connersville where they then go on the assembly line to manufacture the finished product.
Cambridge City resident Kim Harrod said she was happy to be one of the first to be hired after spending two years trying to find work.
"Just to see it finally come to town and something actually go in here," she said.
Over the next five years, Wayzata will hire 300 people, but company leaders say that's a conservative number.
"Two weeks from now, we'll be in the middle of starting up our second assembly line up and starting to hire a crew for that line," said Tim Melillo, Senior VP at Wayzata Home Products.
Leaders, just like workers, are optimistic there will be much more expansion at their new Connersville plant in the coming years.
"The growth that we're going to have, hopefully, over the next three years is going to be tremendous so there will be plenty of opportunities for other people to get in and just to pursue a career more than just than a job," Gossett said.
To learn more about the jobs and to apply online, click here.
The company is also expanding into online design so consumers can create their kitchen and order directly from Wayzata. Click here to go to CliqStudios.com.