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Praise and pride at Mack Trucks/Volvo 50th anniversary event

May 04, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • Leif Johansson, CEO and president of Volvo Group speaks to employees at a 50th anniversary celebration at the Hagerstown plant on Wednesday.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

For some, the factory north of Hagerstown will always be known as "Mack."

Fifty years later, the plant still chugs along, making heavy-duty truck engines and transmissions for Mack Trucks and Volvo, which acquired Mack in 2001.

The plant's golden anniversary was cause for celebration Wednesday morning, before an estimated 1,400 employees, Volvo and Mack executives and other dignitaries.

Belinda Vinson, a spokeswoman for the local plant, said the celebration would be repeated, on a lesser scale, for later shifts, at 7:30 p.m. and 3 a.m.

Company officials spoke highly of the work force and its accomplishments.

Tom Hard, the vice president of Volvo Powertrain's business office, said the company produces "the cleanest engines in the entire world."

Carlos Hungria, the senior vice president for Volvo Group North America's powertrain operations, said energy and passion helped the company meet a series of stringent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emission standards in recent years.

The crowd at the anniversary celebration enjoyed a laugh with Dennis Slagle, the president and chief executive officer of Mack Trucks and Volvo Trucks North America, who joked about shutting down the assembly line in Washington County. Using a disguise and a fake name, Slagle pretended to be a prospective employee for a segment on the popular cable TV show "Undercover Boss."

He said the experience underscored another positive force: "It's spirit. It's an intangible that you've got to have."

Elected officials and their representatives praised the company for being part of the fabric of the community.

Before presenting a proclamation from the Maryland General Assembly, Sen. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, noted that his grandfather used to work at the plant.

Shank said Mack represents the soul of Washington County.

Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, recalled the Mack connections he had while growing up — such as his Little League coaches who worked there, or the crush of traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue every day at 4 p.m.

He thanked the company for hiring the friends and neighbors of people throughout the community.

In a video clip, Donald Bowman said his trucking company, D.M. Bowman, has 319 vehicles, and all are Macks or Volvos. He has ordered 75 more.

During the ceremony, the company recognized some of its oldest and youngest employees.

One was Jeanette Dansberger, the first woman hired at the Washington County plant when Mack moved here from Plainfield, N.J. She received a standing ovation.

The honor of cutting two large sheet cakes went to two longtime employees. The plant's two youngest workers received those first slices.

James H. Wyckoff, 68, an engine repairman with the second-longest tenure among blue-collar workers, cut and handed cake to Daniel Foltz, 23, a maintenance worker. Foltz said his father, Robert, was one of the plant's earliest employees and retired in 2008.

Dennis Hollinger, 60, cut the other cake. He started at the plant in 1969, making him the longest-serving white-collar employee. He gave a slice of cake to Brandon Sloan, 23, a manufacturing engineer.

Gary Harbel, 72, who is the longest-serving plant employee, watched the cake-cutting from the stage. He said he started at Mack in November 1961.

Afterward, he said automation and computers have changed the way work is done, but "the attitude still goes on. We're proud Mack workers."

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