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O'Malley, CEO praise Knorr's new Westminster facility

BusinessMartin O'Malley

The Knorr Brake company unveiled its new Westminster facility Thursday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Gov. Martin O'Malley and Knorr-Bremse CEO Heinz Hermann Thiele.

Knorr Brake is the American base of German-based Knorr-Bremse. It manufactures braking, door and HVAC systems for mass transit vehicles.

After 18 years on Baltimore Boulevard, Knorr's new $28 million, 235,000-square-foot facility is on Arthur Peck Drive, across Route 97 from the Carroll County Regional Airport.

The company has been located in Westminster since 1994 when it moved to Carroll County from Rockville.

Knorr President Rich Bowie said the new facility is a "clear commitment" to Carroll County that Knorr is here to stay.

"We are excited to continue to be here in Maryland, our home base for North America," Bowie said.

O'Malley called Knorr's new facility "phenomenal" and its $28 million investment in the state "colossal."

He said Knorr's new plant meets the state's "imperative of jobs, jobs, jobs."

"There is no progress without a job," O'Malley said. "The most important priority we have therefore is jobs and job creation."

Knorr expects to hire 40 to 50 more employees, including workers, engineers and program managers, within the next year to keep up with demand, according to Ken Towns, Knorr vice president for contracts.

The company already employs 230, most coming from Carroll and surrounding counties, he said.

Westminster Mayor Kevin Utz said the new building is a "showcase" that the city will talk about for a long time.

"We are honored to have you (Knorr) and your business in our city," he said during his remarks.

At its former location on Baltimore Boulevard in Westminster, Knorr was forced to rent space from neighboring businesses to keep up with demand for its products.

At the new facility Knorr has space for an expansion within the new building and in the surrounding area.

"The transit market is growing, and we see continued growth in the next five years," Bowie said.

Knorr employees began moving into the new building on Arthur Peck Drive — which houses all office, warehouse and manufacturing operations — on April 6. All business operations are now up and running at the new site.

Towns said a lack of space on Baltimore Boulevard made the move to a new location necessary.

In addition to renting space from surrounding businesses, Towns said there was no space for employee parking.

Knorr broke ground for its new facility in January 2012.

Knorr had been considering a location in Hanover, Pa., for its new facility before choosing to stay in Westminster.

Mike McMullin, president of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, said it was an "amazing" achievement for Carroll to keep Knorr in Westminster.

"That would have been a huge loss, if they would have left," McMullin said.

The new facility is double the size of Knorr's former building and includes space within the new facility to expand operations as the company grows and acquires smaller companies, Towns said.

He said the expectation is that company sales will grow from $124 million to $150 million over the next three years.

An additional 160,000 square feet is available for expanding the building in the future.

McMullin said Knorr's expansion and planned expansions mean "the future is bright" with more jobs for Carroll residents.

Knorr's new facility is expected to received the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold certification, in part because of 3,036 solar panels that line the roof of the building. Those panels provide about 50 percent of all the energy the company needs.

The former Knorr building on Baltimore Boulevard did not remain vacant for long.

Newly formed Land Sea Air Manufacturing purchased the building earlier this month for $3.5 million. Employees began moving into the facility in early April and all operations should be up and running by June, according to Vice President Paul Virtz.

Land Sea Air manufactures components for the aircraft and aerospace industries, as well as defense contracting firms. They are a parts supplier to Knorr.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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