Mitsubishi Plant Opens in Southwest Memphis

By Bill Dries

A group of 200 dignitaries marked the formal opening Friday, April 19, of the Mitsubishi Electric Power Products Inc. plant in Southwest Memphis.

The crowd included representatives from Southern California Edison and Dominion Virginia Power, the first two customers to order transformers from the $200 million plant.

They, along with Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr., Tennessee Economic Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty and executives from parent company Mitsubishi Electric Corp. of Japan, donned ceremonial jackets and wooden mallets for the opening of several wooden saki barrels at a luncheon that featured sushi and barbecue.

The plant is Mitsubishi’s first North American facility to manufacture the large power transformers that are sold to utility companies and other power providers.

“We are making key investments like this one across North America,” said Kenichiro Yamanishi, president and CEO of Mitsubishi Electric Corp. “We are building closer to our customers.”

David Mead, senior vice president of Southern California Edison, said his company previously bought 500 kilovolt transformers, like the ones it has ordered from Mitsubishi Memphis, that were made in Spain, South Korea and Japan.

The plant will begin work later this year on the transformers that weigh several hundred tons and can be shipped only by rail or barge. It now employs 60 people who are undergoing training; the number will grow to 275 at full production.

Wharton noted that the plant has enough land and room in the building’s design for expansion.

“We can compete with anybody in the world,” he said of the plant’s workforce and the city’s place with the new plant in the heavy high skill manufacturing sector.

Mitsubishi is one of two big economic development projects the city landed in 2010. Electrolux is expected to begin production in May at its plant in nearby Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park, where workers will make ovens and stoves for home and commercial use.