Photo by Dennis Seid

By DENNIS SEID / Daily Journal

Military vehicle manufacturer Navistar Defense LLC is adding 500 new jobs to its West Point facility as it invests $8 million to upgrade it.

“Navistar Defense’s decision to add hundreds of new jobs for the people of Clay County is a strong testament to our state’s business climate and our dedicated, skilled manufacturing workforce,” Gov. Tate Reeves said. “Our national government relies on Mississippians to keep our military and allies safe. I know these 500 Mississippians will work hard to maintain Navistar Defense’s high profile within the vehicle manufacturing and defense industries, while continuing its long-standing tradition of quality workmanship in West Point.”

Headquartered in Melrose Park, Ill., Navistar Defense manufactures and sustains tactical wheeled and commercial off-the-shelf military vehicles for the U.S. government and NATO allies. The company said its decision to invest in its West Point operations and add hundreds of new jobs is part of its commitment to establishing a long-term presence in Mississippi. Navistar Defense said it currently has contracts in place enabling the company to maintain long-term sustainability in West Point.

Navistar has built and delivered tens of thousands of mine-resistant, ambush-protected armored vehicles and variants of it to the U.S. Military as well as other nations.

“Navistar Defense is demonstrating its commitment to the Golden Triangle region through this investment in our West Point Assembly Plant,” said Navistar Defense CEO Ted Wright. “Enhancing our manufacturing capability and growing our workforce is part of our strategic plan to grow the company. The plant’s large capacity enables us to build on our core military vehicle business and offers the potential to manufacture a variety of additional products.”

The Mississippi Development Authority is providing a $2.5 million grant for building improvements. Navistar Defense also qualifies for the Advantage Jobs Rebate Program, which provides a rebate to eligible businesses that create new jobs that exceed the average annual wage of the state or county in which the company locates or expands. The Tennessee Valley Authority also is assisting with the project.

“The commitment that Navistar Defense is making in West Point not only in investment, but in hiring 500 full-time jobs with great benefits is a tremendous investment in our region,” said Joe Max Higgins, CEO of the Golden Triangle Development LINK. “Our existing employers invest large amounts in our region annually, and the Navistar Defense project is just another example of why the Golden Triangle is a profitable place for a business. These hires will be very helpful as we continue to work toward recovering from COVID-related effects.”

The addition of the 500 new jobs, which the company plans to fill by 2024, brings employment at the West Point facility to 525.

In January, Navistar Defense acquired the West Point assembly plant in West Point for an undisclosed amount. The company had leased the facility from Babcock and Wilcox since 2006.

The West Point Assembly Plant has been Navistar Defense’s primary manufacturing site since 2006, and the company calls the plant its hub for the manufacture of it line of military vehicles, which are sold worldwide. The plant is located on 161 acres and has 562,000 square feet of manufacturing, storage and office space comprised of five multi-purpose, moving assembly lines.

In addition to assembly tooling and equipment, the plant has high-volume chemical agent resistant coating painting, certified welding and technical automotive capabilities.

Navistar Defense in December was awarded a $24.5 million contract to provide medium tactical vehicles to foreign military sales customers worldwide, except for Iraq.

The three-year  contract, awarded by the U.S. Army Contracting Command, is comprised of 6X6 general transport trucks and 6X6 wreckers, along with spare parts and technical data for both variants.

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