For Whirlpool, happiness begins at its Tulsa plant.
The facility announced Thursday it put the finishing touch on the 20 millionth free-standing range produced at the 18-year-old plant. The milestone unit is a gas range produced for the Whirlpool brand.
"After producing ranges here in Tulsa for 18 years, Line 3 completed our 20 millionth unit this afternoon," Bruce Alexander, Tulsa plant leader, said in a statement. "We are proud to be invested in American manufacturing, and reaching this milestone today reflects Whirlpool's steady product leadership in building the industry's best ranges."
The plant in the Cherokee Industrial Park began operations in 1996. Its initial cost was funded with $26 million from a half-cent sales tax approved by Tulsa County voters in 1994.
Whirlpool currently employs more than 1,000 people and builds ranges for the Maytag, Whirlpool, KitchenAid and Amana brands. In August 2013, the company announced it was hiring 150 additional workers for the Tulsa facility.
"We are thankful for their dedication to our business," Alexander added. "Tulsa Operations is pleased to be a part of the Tulsa community and offer great employment opportunities."
At its peak, the Whirlpool plant employed 1,200 workers six years ago. The recession and other factors caused the company to reduce that workforce to 850 but last year's expansion added 150 jobs.
Whirlpool's latest product introduced to the line includes the Aqualift Technology self-clean ranges, Alexander noted. The ranges have been engineered with an exclusive enamel oven coating that activates with water and low heat, allowing moisture to release tough baked-on messes, he said.
The public-private partnership lasted until 2005 when Whirlpool took ownership from Tulsa County after meeting the agreed $250 million payroll commitment three years earlier than expected.
Rod Walton 918-581-8457
Whirlpool Tulsa timeline
1994: Tulsa County voters approve half-cent sales tax to fund construction of plant.
1996: Plant at Cherokee Industrial Plant begins operations.
2006: Whirlpool acquires Maytag brand, later sells some of its former rival's plants.
2007: Several production lines moved from Tennessee plants to Tulsa facility.
2008: Whirlpool announces it is cutting 5,000 jobs companywide, including in Tulsa.
2013: After several reductions over years, Whirlpool announces it will expand Tulsa workforce from 850 to about 1,000.