Freudenberg-NOK, suppliers of the Corteco gasket brand, celebrated the opening of its 140,000-square-foot expansion at its Milan, Ohio, distribution centre, representing a near doubling in size of the facility. Designed to accommodate the group’s aggressive growth schedule, the $8.2 million U.S. investment includes the addition of a 138,240- square-foot fulfilment centre, as well as space for new offices. The Milan facility is dedicated to Freudenberg-NOK’s Distributed Products Group, which comprises Corteco — the company’s automotive aftermarket business; Simrit — which provides sealing solutions for the industrial market; and Dichtomatik North America — which distributes world-sourced O- ring and sealing products. With current sales of $265 million, the group plans to double its sales within the next five years. “With its proven, efficient workforce and the ability to service 60 percent of the group’s customer base from its central location, Milan is clearly a strategic site for Freudenberg-NOK,” said Phillip A. Damaska, CEO of Freudenberg-NOK’s Distributed Products Group. “This expansion demonstrates the strong commitment the company has to its employees and to Milan, and underscores our intent to grow the businesses of the Distributed Products Group.” Key Freudenberg-NOK executives were in attendance for the ribbon cutting and employee celebration, including Dr. Herbert Fehrecke, interim CEO of Freudenberg-NOK, and representatives from the State of Ohio, Erie County and Milan Township. Indy Racing League driver Al Unser Jr., who serves as a spokesperson for Corteco, was also on hand to meet employees and sign autographs. The expansion was the first of two phases in the group’s five-year project plan. Phase two, which is expected to be undertaken in 2007, will add another 110,000 square feet. The Distributed Products Group also plans to increase the number of employees by nearly 100 over the next several years. “The employees at the Milan facility were instrumental in making this expansion a success and ensuring the smooth transition into the new space,” said Stephen W. Murphy, vice president, production and logistics for Corteco, and Milan site executive. “With their help, we were able to complete the expansion in less than 12 months, and continue to provide the superior customer service and world-class products that this facility is known for.” With more than 300 associates, the Milan facility ships 2.3 million engine kits per year under the Corteco name, and 4.5 million transmission kits and 1.6 million power steering kits per year under the TransTec name (a Corteco product line), covering virtually all vehicles sold in North America. It also distributes more than 120 million pieces of oil seal and custom-molded products annually. The ISO 9001:2000-certified facility had sales of approximately $120 million in 2001 and expects sales of $156 million by year- end 2003.