OCONEE COUNTY: Borg WarnerJul 03, 2017 02:20PM ● By Makayla Gay
By Vincent Harris
The economic impact of the Seneca’s Borg Warner auto plant, which is located at 15545 Wells Highway and first opened its doors in 1998, is not hard to analyze. Since a late-2015 expansion of the plant, they’ve increased their workforce from 650 to more than 900 employees, making a car part called a transfer case for Volkswagen, Audi, Ford, Toyota, General Motors, Dahmler-Chrysler, BMW, Honda and John Deere, among many others. A transfer case is part of the drive train in vehicles that have multiple-powered axles (like four-wheel or all-wheel drive). They take power from the transmission and transfer it to the front and rear axles using drive shafts.
In addition to the expansion, the plant entered into a leasing agreement with the city of Seneca in order to use the 100,000 square feet of the Seneca Convention Center as warehousing space. The plant produces a little more than 1 million transfer cases annually, with three fully staffed shifts per day. The average salary as of February 2017 ranges from $32,000 a year for a shift manager team leader to more than $100,000 for a manufacturing engineer.
Those are the hard numbers, but Borg Warner has a much larger effect on their community, because that’s part of their corporate culture.
“As a company, support of our respective communities is part of our belief system,” says the Seneca plant’s human resources manager, Amy Cribb. “We have a strong commitment. With so many people working here who are part of this community, we want to make sure we stay engaged with them.”
One way Borg Warner fulfills that commitment is through charity work, whether it’s through what Cribb calls, “Hey, can we help support my kid’s t-ball team?” requests, which are handled by an employee committee, to larger roles with specific organizations.
“Most recently we worked with the March Of Dimes,” Cribb says. “We raised $15,000 for that organization and were awarded the top contributor in our area overall for that. We have a long legacy of supporting Colin’s Hope (an organization dedicated to providing water safety and swimming instruction to children), and through the Salvation Army, we have 100 ‘Angels’ that we support. Our employees pick an angel off the Christmas tree every year with a child’s name and give them a Christmas present. We also support the Safe Harbor Domestic Violence Shelter providing toys for their kids, and Marvin’s Kids (an Oconee County-based children’s charity), running a campaign for first aid supplies, blankets and sheets. We make sure we support our community and remain socially and economically responsible in all areas.”
But perhaps the most impressive community effort that Borg Warner is making both on a national and local level isn’t direct charity work; it’s work to sustain the environment. The Seneca plant is the first of Borg Warner’s facilities that is a “zero-landfill” site, meaning that 90 percent or more of the plant’s waste is recycled or reused in some manner.
“We take a comprehensive view of what we’re doing to make sure we’re not unintentionally polluting the environment,” says Dave Jacobs, the Seneca plant manager. “We understand what comes out of our plants, whether it’s air emissions or wastewater emissions or oil emissions, and we’re also audited every year by outside auditors who verify that we’re making continuous improvements as far as reducing our footprint. We’re making over a million transfer cases a year, we want to do it in a responsible way so that we don’t leave a mess behind us.”
And there’s a bigger project that’s just begun at the Seneca plant, one that puts them at the forefront of the push for environmentally sustainable business models.
“This is something that we’re doing with our corporate office in Michigan,” Jacobs says. “We’ve partnered with an outside consultant who has a lot of expertise in energy efficiency. And they just designated the Seneca plant to be one of their six pilot plants out of over 60 Borg Warner locations. These outside folks to come and work with our facilities people in the plant and bring some fresh perspective about energy efficiency ideas we should be adopting in the plant.”
Jacobs thinks that Borg Warner’s commitment to environmental concerns even extends to the transfer cases themselves.
“The stuff that we sell tends to be things that reduce emissions or improve fuel economy,” he says. “As transfer cases get better and better, they provide four-wheel drive with less and less wasted energy lower emissions for the cars. So it’s really the products we make and how we make them, through a pretty comprehensive program. It’s a little over a million. It all goes back to that responsibility to our community.”