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Kenworth Celebrates 50 Years of Building “The World’s Best® Trucks” in Chillicothe, Ohio


CHILLICOTHE, Ohio (March 4, 2024) – A golden anniversary for a symbol of American manufacturing: the Kenworth truck assembly plant in Chillicothe, Ohio, celebrates 50 years of rolling out “The World’s Best®” trucks today.

From Humble Beginnings to Manufacturing Powerhouse:

  • The plant officially opened its doors on March 4th, 1974, and within a day, the first Kenworth W900 truck proudly emerged from the assembly line.
  • Since then, over 782,000 trucks have left Chillicothe, each one embodying Kenworth’s core values of quality, innovation, and cutting-edge technology.
  • Today, the plant stands as Kenworth’s largest manufacturing facility, employing roughly 2,500 people and serving as a significant economic engine for Ross County.

Celebrating the People Who Make It Happen:

  • “Chillicothe is the perfect home for building Kenworth trucks,” says Jim Walenczak, Kenworth’s general manager and PACCAR vice president. “Our proximity to customers, suppliers, and, most importantly, our skilled workforce – the Kenworth family – makes it ideal.”
  • Walenczak acknowledges the dedication and expertise of both past and present employees, crediting them for reaching this 50-year milestone.

Investing in the Future:

  • Kenworth’s commitment to Chillicothe is evident in the $300 million invested since 2018 to modernize the facility.
  • This investment includes advanced manufacturing technologies like robotic assembly and a state-of-the-art paint facility boasting the industry’s latest technology.
  • Recognition for the plant’s excellence doesn’t stop there. In 2022, the Kenworth Chillicothe plant received two Manufacturing Leadership Awards and, in 2020, an “E3” Gold Award from the Ohio EPA for its environmental stewardship.

A Legacy of Building More Than Just Trucks:

  • For nearly 40% of the workforce, Kenworth Chillicothe has been their workplace home for over 15 years. Doug VanZuiden, the plant manager, emphasizes the dedication and experience of the team, highlighting their passion for building “The World’s Best trucks” every day.  “Our highly experienced, dedicated and long-term workforce is the secret to building a customer-oriented product and custom-engineered vehicle, and this team excels at building quality, pride and passion into The World’s Best trucks every day,” said VanZuiden.
  • Long-time employee Jeff Hougland, with the company since 1975, reminisces about the positive impact Kenworth’s arrival had on the community, providing much-needed jobs during an economic downturn. He takes pride in his role and the legacy of building exceptional trucks. “When I first started working with Kenworth, the economy was in a recession and the unemployment rate was high. The opening of the Kenworth Chillicothe plant in ’74 served as a lifeline for many in our community seeking employment opportunities,” said Hougland. “Over the years as the plant has increased its operational footprint to meet demand through expansion projects, like our new paint facility, additional well-paying job opportunities have followed. I’ve worked with a lot of great people throughout my career here and am proud to help build the best trucks out there.”

Giving Back to the Community:

  • Supporting Ross County is an integral part of Kenworth’s identity. Through a 30-year partnership with the United Way of Ross County, the plant has raised over $2 million for the organization’s community programs.
  • Jack Schmitt, the assistant plant manager, emphasizes Kenworth’s deep roots in Ross County and their commitment to investing in and strengthening the community where their employees live and work. “Kenworth is truly a generational company. Many plant employees are second, even third generation in their families to work here and they take a lot of pride in representing Kenworth,” said Jack Schmitt, Kenworth Chillicothe assistant plant manager. “Our deep roots in Ross County are one of the many reasons we care deeply about working to invest in and strengthen the community where we all live and work – now and in the future.”

Kenworth’s 50th anniversary in Chillicothe marks a significant milestone, not just for the company, but for the community it has become a part of. The dedication of its workforce and commitment to excellence ensure that “The World’s Best trucks” will continue to roll off the assembly line for years to come.