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Mack hits milestone with millionth engine

October 29, 2003|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

The celebration was three months in coming, but the delay meant workers at Mack Trucks' Hagerstown plant had more than their landmark millionth engine to celebrate.

Hagerstown workers assembled their millionth engine July 23. But their celebratory luncheon was postponed while negotiations were under way to continue producing engines at the plant, company officials said.

Speaking to workers assembled for hamburgers and cake Tuesday, Denis Leblond, senior vice president for Volvo Powertrain's North America division, noted the T-shirts being distributed said "one million and counting. We wanted to make sure we would still be counting."

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AB Volvo, which purchased Mack in 2001, reached a decision to locate its North American Volvo Powertrain production operations at the Hagerstown plant earlier this month, ending speculation that the production line might go elsewhere.

Members of the local United Auto Workers chapters approved amendments to their contract in order to keep the production line here. Leblond used Tuesday's luncheon to thank the workers for their vote.

"We're all looking forward to the next few years," he said.

That millionth engine was on display Tuesday as workers ferried it to various areas of the plant by forklift. Though it originally was meant to sit inside a Mack truck, the workers assembling it last July spontaneously began to autograph it. There were so many signatures on the engine that company officials decided to keep it in Hagerstown, where it will be placed on display in the plant's front lobby, according to spokeswoman Patti Friend.

The Mack plant has been operating in Hagerstown since 1961. While it took more than 40 years to reach the million-engine milestone, Leblond predicted the plant would produce its two millionth in about a third of that time.

"It definitely won't take 40 years," Plant Manager Roger Johnston said.

Maurice Kaiser, president of UAW Local 171 and a 42-year Mack employee, said he was "extremely happy to know that we have things secure for a lot of years now.

"Mack and the union work well together," he said. "With our success, we'll be here for many years. The next generation will continue to assemble engines and transmissions."

"It really is a great day for us to celebrate," Johnston said.

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