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Nissan has added 810 jobs in a new third shift to build its Altima, Infiniti JX and Pathfinder, officials announced Friday.

Town Manager Mark O’Neal called it great news for Smyrna and Rutherford County.

“Eight hundred jobs is desperately needed right now,” O’Neal said.

Gov. Bill Haslam made the jobs announcement at an economic development conference in Nashville where he said the hiring decision marks the first time since its opening 1983 that the Nissan plan will operate on three shifts.

“Nissan and Tennessee have enjoyed a long and successful partnership, and this announcement shows the strength of the company and the market demand for its products,” Haslam said. “Nissan and our existing industries are very important to the state’s economy and the citizens they employ, and I want to congratulate and thank Nissan on (Friday’s) announcement and the new jobs it means for Tennessee.”

Nissan has production sites in Decherd in Franklin County as well as Canton, Miss., and Nissan North America is headquartered in Franklin.

Speaking at the 59th annual Governor’s Conference on Economic and Community Development at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel, Haslam said Nissan’s move fits the event theme, “Global Reach, Local Impact.”

“Nissan has been instrumental in putting Tennessee on the map in auto manufacturing,” Haslam said. “This announcement bolsters what has been a highly successful business story in our state.”

State Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, who attended the conference, said he was excited to hear Haslam compliment Rutherford County and Nissan leaders for their efforts.

“Some of the best autos in the world are made right here in Smyrna,” said Sparks, a former Nissan employee.

Nissan Americas Vice Chairman Bill Krueger said the investment in creating hundreds of jobs shows the company’s “longtime commitment to our employees, Smyrna and the state of Tennessee.”

“The dedicated workforce in Tennessee continues to build high-quality vehicles that compete and win globally, and we’re committed to ensuring this doesn’t change.”

About 2,000 jobs in all have been added to the site since the middle of last year, according to the Associated Press. Roughly 5,600 people currently work at the plant, which makes Nissan’s most popular car, the midsize Altima sedan, and soon will produce the Leaf electric car and Rogue SUV, in addition to lithium ion batteries for the Leaf.

The company also recently announced it is expanding an engine plant in Decherd.

Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce President Paul Latture said the chamber had been working with Nissan on the project for some time. He confirmed the new workers will build the Altima, Infiniti JX and Pathfinder, though Nissan had not provided the Chamber with any production figures.

“It just shows Nissan is a company that continues to pay dividends in Smyrna and Rutherford County,” Latture said. “They are a huge economic engine for us. We’re fortunate to have a company like Nissan that continues to invest in our area.”

Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who was governor when Nissan began manufacturing in Smyrna, said, “This is more evidence that Nissan’s arrival in Tennessee 30 years ago was the most important decision in recent history to help Tennessee family incomes. Gov. Haslam and Nissan workers deserve our thanks for providing an environment for creating good jobs.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, also a Republican, said Nissan’s decision provides another example that Tennessee is becoming the top state in the nation for auto manufacturing.

“Congratulations to Nissan, its employees and Gov. Haslam’s economic development team for strengthening a successful economic partnership that began 30 years ago under Lamar Alexander,” Corker said.

Smyrna’s O’Neal said the relationship between the town government and Nissan is as good now if not better than it was in 1983. The company works closely with town officials on energy use in developing budgets for natural gas and water consumption, he said.
 
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