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Culture Prompts Cooperation, Continued Success at Cataler

From its grand opening to production of its 1-millionth part, Japanese influence has flowed through every crack and crevice of the Cataler North America plant. The culture touches every part of the plant and its employees, said Beverly Gilbert, human resources manager. The plant, which manufactures and distributes automotive catalysts, officially opened November 12, 2002 in the Lincoln County Industrial Park. It’s a 110,000 square foot facility which represents a $60 million investment in Lincoln County – the largest so far. CNA was the first wholly owned subsidiary of the Cataler Corporation, headquartered in Shizuoka, Japan. Four upper management officials at the Lincoln County plant are Japanese, Gilbert said, and they’ve made Lincoln County their home. “They’re involved in everything,” Gilbert said. Japanese manufacturing techniques are used to control production and improve quality of the products, she said. And plant management officials take Japanese lessons twice a week so they can communicate better with company heads. “It’s an optional thing, but most opt for it,” Gilbert said. The international influence also makes for a respectable, cooperative environment, Gilbert said. It’s largely due to the presence and visibility of Cataler officials. “They’re the ones who do that, and we take the lead from them,” she said. The company has added three lines since its November opening, bringing the facility to two-thirds its capacity. One crushes heavy powder into a finer powder, which is then shipped to facilities in California and Japan. Another produces catalysts for diesel vehicles, and the third is a loader for regular production. Things are moving fast, Gilbert said. She was hired in September of 2001 as Cataler’s second American employee and remembers when all that sat in the Industrial Park was a concrete slab. In July, Cataler manufactured its 1-millionth part. The company has also increased the number of employees by 17, bringing the total to 78. Four more employees will probably be added this year. “It’s unbelievable, it just grows so fast,” Gilbert said. Business should continue to increase as the demand for catalytic converters grows as a result of more stringent emissions tests, company president Satoshi Nakagawa said when announcing plans for the park’s development. Nakagawa expected production to reach 4 million per year at that time. That’s still a realistic goal, Gilbert said. Cataler officials chose Lincoln County for a variety of reasons, including its proximity to suppliers and the cooperation with state and local governments. “North Carolina and Lincoln County offer a tremendous number of incentives for new businesses,” Gilbert said.