Martinrea vets do the work despite the turmoil

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By Lisa King

Two Martinrea employees have been with the company through thick and thin and are still hanging in there.

Rex Edwards, quality manager, has been with Martinrea since 1989, and Marilyn Wise, who works in quality assurance, has a year on Edwards, having been with the company since 1988.

Edwards said that he and Wise have seen the company through good times and bad - and three ownership changes - and they hope that times are improving economically.

"The economy has created a tough road for anyone in the automotive industry," Edwards said. "But we are working very hard to find and bring in new work to this facility and to stabilize the workforce."

Because it supplies parts for Ford's sports-utility vehicles, the plant has followed the troubled automotive market into an economic tailspin, and management announced in May that they expected to close its doors by the end of the summer.

Then in July, its union employees and plant management were able to reach a collective bargaining agreement, which would allow the plant to remain open. Plant manager Shawn Adelsberger said at that time that the plant expected to get some Ford contracts and had been awarded some new work, with production scheduled to begin in 2011.

There were 1,150 workers at the height of the plant's productivity in 2004, but that total was down to 170 at the last count.

Martinrea occupies an 85,000-foot structure located just off Taylorsville Road and I-64 in Shelbyville that was built in 1987, and that was a new building when Wise was hired the following year by its original owners, the Budd Company. The company was later sold to ThyssenKrupp before Martinrea took over nearly two years ago.

Wise, who lives in Shelbyville, said she takes pride in her work.

"I work in quality assurance," she said. "I do the dock audits and quality inspections, and I handle all of our quality issues with our parts suppliers."

She added that Martinrea is still home to her. "It's a great place to work," she said.

Edwards, who is from Taylorsville, said he feels the same way.

"The thing I enjoy most about working here is the people I work with," he said. "I've been here since 1989 and got hired in as a production associate and have worked in various departments and various different facets at the facility through the good times and the bad times, we've both been here," he said, referring to Wise.

Edwards said he and Wise both enjoy being looked up to by other employees.

"In my role as a quality manager, I set the directions as far as the quality of the product coming out and make the decisions ultimately as to what's acceptable and what's not acceptable," he said. "I think they look at me as someone that they know and trust and have confidence in us due to the fact that we've been here together for over 20 years."

Despite a rocky past year, Wise and Edwards are both optimistic about the future of Martinrea.

"I think we are heading in the right direction as far as how the facility is moving forward," Edwards said.