Last updated: February 12. 2014 9:42AM - 844 Views
By William Laney wlaney@civitasmedia.com

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OTTAWA — Beginning with the acquisition of a plant in Ottawa, the Whirlpool Corp. could build upright and chest models under the same roof for the first time.

“Since 2010, our Ottawa plant has helped our company become a successful global competitor in the freezer business,” Whirlpool Corp. Ottawa plant director Dale Rampe said.

The Ottawa plant became the company’s newest facility in May 2010 through an acquisition of the assets of Canadian company W.C. Wood.

Initially the plant employed 150 workers on one shift, but that changed in 2011 when the Ottawa plant added a second shift to meet growing customer demand. Whirlpool Corp. now employs more than 350 employees in Ottawa at the 500,000-square-foot facility located on Woodland Drive.

“We are invested in American manufacturing,” Rampe said. “Not only are we a product leader here in the United States with our freezers and trash compactors, but we also sell to international markets.”

The Whirlpool facility in Ottawa builds freezers under the nameplates of Maytag, Amana, Danby and Imperial. The plant focuses mostly on freezers, but it’s also a site where workers build trash compactors.

From the kitchen to the laundry room and beyond, the Whirlpool Corp. manufactures just about every type of home appliance. Team members at eight different plants, including five in Ohio, specialize in producing everything from washers to refrigerators to cooktops.

The Whirlpool Corp. also extends a helping hand to the community of Ottawa and Putnam County.

Since 2010, the Ottawa plant has donated a freezer to every Habitat for Humanity home built in Putnam County. Ottawa employees built the plant’s first sponsored home, which was the 3,000th home built by Habitat in Ohio. It was dedicated in September 2013.

Additionally, the plant has sponsored American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life teams for several years, has been active with blood drives for the American Red Cross and is a strong supporter of the United Way.

Whirlpool Corp. is the world’s leading manufacturer and marketer of major home appliances, with annual sales of more than $19 billion in 2011, 68,000 employees and 66 manufacturing and technology research centers around the world. The company markets Whirlpool, Maytag, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air, Amana, Brastemp, Consul, Bauknecht and other major brand names to consumers in nearly every country around the world.

The company has roots to 1908, when Lou Upton invested his savings in a venture to manufacture household equipment. When that company failed to materialize, Upton was offered the opportunity to select something of value from the failed venture as a return on his investment. He chose the patents on a hand washing machine that he thought might be electrified.

Upton brought the patents and his innovative vision home to St. Joseph, Mich. In 1911, Upton joined his uncle, Emory, and brother, Fred, to produce motor-driven wringer washers as the Upton Machine Co.

For their first major order, the company made 100 washing machines, but a problem arose with the cast-iron gear in the transmission. They had to replace the part with a cut-steel gear. Impressed with the company’s business ethics, the customer doubled their order.

In 1929, Upton Machine Co. merged with the Nineteen Hundred Washer Co. of New York. After halting production to make parts for war equipment, it returned to producing washers in 1945. In 1949, the company changed its name to the Whirlpool Corp. and achieved $48 million in sales and annual earnings of $3 million.

In the 1970s, Whirlpool expanded its product line. In 1986, it purchased the KitchenAid division of Dart and Kraft, and in 2006 the company acquired the Maytag Corp.

In 2011, Whirlpool unveiled its 100th anniversary logo, leading up to the start of a year-long celebration of the company’s centennial.

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