LIMA — Production is ramping up at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center as the tank plant prepares to deliver the first brigade of M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams battle tanks to the U.S. Army.
Plant manager Hank Kennedy expects the brigade to be ready for the U.S. Army sometime this summer.
“We’re in the throes of getting that together,” Kennedy said. He explained the “first brigade is critical because we need to get (them) into the soldiers’ hands so they can get trained on it and everything else.”
The M1A2 SEPv3 models are the third version of the M1A2 SEP (system enhancement package) Abrams tanks, which the Lima tank plant started producing in 2000.
Kennedy said the tank plant’s workforce has grown to 600-plus since hiring started late last year. He expects the workforce to reach 700 by the end of 2019 and to surpass 900 in 2020. That’s about two times the size of the JSMC’s workforce in 2016, when employment fell below 500.
He said new employees are needed to help the tank plant grow and replace retiring workers, as a large share of the JSMC workforce is nearing retirement.
Recruiting efforts have been underway for several months now, spanning the county and surrounding region.
But Kennedy said the tank plant is in competition with the Husky Lima Refinery, Crown Equipment and other large manufacturers in the region to recruit talent.
“It’s good for the economy,” he said, “but for manufacturers, it’s tougher now.”
Candidates should expect lengthy application and interview process, as the government-owned tank plant requires extensive background checks. Kennedy said the entire process can last for 2-4 months, depending on the position.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.