KTH: An Expanding Footprint in Champaign County
Champaign Economic Partnership
KTH Parts Industries, Inc., which makes underbody structural frame components for cars, has become Champaign County’s largest employer. “And we’re probably one of the largest Tier 1 automotive suppliers in the country under one roof,” says Chris Millice, Senior Vice President of General Administration.
KTH, a Champion Level Partner Investor of the Champaign Economic Partnership, started out in 1985 in a 250,000-square-foot facility, west of St. Paris, with about 250 associates. Thirty-seven expansions and 34 years later, KTH now employs more than 1,100 associates. They work in a sprawling complex totaling 1.068 million square feet – alongside 1,085 robots.
Honda is KTH’s primary customer. The company also supplies parts for Tesla.
Market demand in the competitive automotive industry is expected to be stagnant over the next few years, Millice said. But KTH has been preparing for new opportunities as auto manufacturers shift more of their attention to electric vehicles.
For KTH, this means finding ways to make stronger, lighter frames at a more competitive price, Millice said. This year KTH will begin to implement new joining technology capable of manufacturing these new frames.
Millice credits the CEP for helping KTH grow its footprint and workforce in Champaign County. “The CEP has always been 100 percent behind manufacturing. They’re always coming out to see what we need in the way of workforce.” Plus, he says, the CEP helped KTH obtain tax incentives through the Community Reinvestment Area program – to help make the expansions and job growth possible.
Like all manufacturers, KTH faces the challenge of recruiting employees with technical skills, to service presses and robots, as well as production workers. As KTH’s original workforce retires, this challenge will continue.
And the CEP, through its partnerships with schools and employers like KTH, is working to prepare students for these opportunities.
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