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Pure Power aims to grow S.C. operations

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By Chuck Crumbo

Like the employees who report to him, Greg Butler is grateful to have a job.

But less than two years ago Butler, who is married and the father of three children, had his doubts.

9.5.11CoverThe company he worked for, Continental Diesel Systems, had announced plans to close its Blythewood manufacturing plant and research-and-development facility in Columbia by the end of 2009.

But on Nov. 9 of that year, Navistar Inc. moved in and announced it would buy Continental’s operations in Richland County to manufacture key fuel injectors and valves for diesel engines.

Navistar, based in Warrenville, Ill., also would acquire the R&D facility and create a subsidiary – Pure Power Technologies. Pure Power then would combine the manufacturing and R&D facilities to support Navistar’s diesel power systems.

While jobs would be saved, no one knew how many. Essentially, Pure Power – as a company – was starting from zero, said Butler, who’s now the plant manager.

Initially, 160 people were hired for a re-launch of the Blythewood operation, which had been through three previous launches since it was built in the 1990s.

Today, Pure Power has 400 employees – 300 full-time and 100 temporary – and the S.C. operation is thriving, Butler said. Pure Power also has facilities in Indiana, California, Kentucky and Wisconsin.

“Navistar has done a phenomenal job of taking what were regarded as non-value-added manufacturing facilities, bought them, brought them together under the Pure Power umbrella,” Butler said. “And, within that, we’re not just sustaining the business, but we’re growing the business.”

The 200,000-square-foot Blythewood plant makes a variety of fuel injectors and valves for diesel engines used to power everything from commercial big rigs to delivery trucks.

Compared to a couple of years ago life in Blythewood seems downright blissful.

Navistar has come to the rescue and through its subsidiary – Pure Power – hundreds of jobs have been saved and a manufacturing plant that was once slated to be shuttered is humming along making parts that help power U.S. commerce.

Butler believes it’s the people who make the difference.

“We understood we were going to be without a job,” Butler said. “Part of our payback to Navistar and Pure Power is to make sure we provide quality to our customers and build this business.”

For more details, read the Sept. 5 issue of Columbia Regional Business Report.

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