DIXON – James Verrier knows firsthand the kind of family atmosphere that develops when a factory has been in one place for 50 years.
Verrier, now CEO of BorgWarner Inc., was human resource director in 1998 at the company's Dixon plant at 1350 Franklin Grove Road.
The plant celebrated its 50th anniversary July 26 and 27 with a catered luncheon for employees and an open house with food and games.
Verrier still recognized the faces of the people who made his time in Dixon a warm one, including employees who have worked there more than 40 years.
"The Dixon plant was welcoming," he said. "There is a family environment and a great deal of pride here."
BorgWarner is based in Auburn Hills, Mich., and has 57 facilities in 19 countries. Verrier said the company has developed a niche making environmentally friendly components for several automotive manufacturers.
The Dixon plant, which makes automotive components, was built by Shurhit Products in 1961 and joined BorgWarner's automotive companies in 1963.
After five expansions, it has grown to 130,000 square feet; 220 people work three shifts. It's a medium-sized facility compared to other BorgWarner sites.
The Dixon plant's distinguishing characteristic remains its attention to safety, Verrier said.
"From the day I set foot in this place, good safety was practiced. That's one of the big reasons the Dixon plant has been so successful. It continues to make safety important."
The facility was named the first recipient of the BorgWarner Global Safety Award, awarded for a minimal number of work-related injuries or illnesses over a 5-year period.
Employees elected to donate the $10,000 award to the Dixon Fire Department to buy a new fire safety house.
"That was a special award for us to win," plant manager Chris Lanker said. "Our committee thought it was only appropriate that an award we won for safety go for a safety project."
Verrier also credited local government for working with the company to meet its needs.
Lanker, who just recently took over as plant manager, said the Dixon plant has what it needs to last another 50 years.
"We have great employees, and a nice facility. Our employees are committed to excellence, and that's been the biggest reason for the success here."