Kenworth’s Chillicothe, Ohio Manufacturing Plant Celebrates 50 Years of Producing the World’s Best Trucks

April 2024

CHILLICOTHE, OH… The Kenworth truck assembly plant in Chillicothe, Ohio celebrates 50 years of building the World’s Best® trucks. The plant officially opened on March 4, 1974, and the plant’s first truck – a Kenworth W900 – rolled off the assembly line a day later.

 Since then, Kenworth Chillicothe plant employees have produced more than 782,000 trucks in alignment with the company’s core values of quality, innovation and state-of-the-art technology. The plant employs approximately 2,500 people, one of the largest employers in Ross County (where Chillicothe resides), and is Kenworth’s largest manufacturing facility.

 “Chillicothe is a great place for Kenworth to build trucks because it is close to our customers, suppliers and, of course, a community of highly skilled employees we are fortunate to call our Kenworth family,” said Jim Walenczak, Kenworth general manager and PACCAR vice president. “Today we celebrate 50 years of innovation in Chillicothe, community involvement in Ross County and The World’s Best employees. This milestone is a testament to the dedication of our incredible workforce – both past and present – and Kenworth’s commitment to continued growth in Chillicothe.”

 The Kenworth Chillicothe plant is located on a 120-acre site 50 miles south of Columbus, Ohio. Since 2018, Kenworth has invested $300 million in the 622,000-square-foot facility that features advanced manufacturing technologies, including robotic assembly, and a state-of-the-art paint facility that utilizes the latest technology in the industry. The multi-level paint facility went into production in October 2021 and is equipped with bell spray head technology that improves the appearance and transfer efficiency of the paint. In 2022, the Kenworth Chillicothe plant received two Manufacturing Leadership Awards for its new Kenworth Paint Facility and Henrob Error Proofing project from the National Association of Manufacturers. In 2020, the plant received an Encouraging Environmental Excellence “E3” Gold Award from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for going beyond regulatory compliance requirements for environmental stewardship activities and in 2006, was recognized by Quality Magazine for its “Plant of the Year” Award.

 According to Doug VanZuiden, Kenworth Chillicothe plant manager, nearly 40% of its employees have worked at the plant for more than 15 years. “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.

 Jeff Hougland, one of Kenworth Chillicothe’s longest-tenured employees, having joined the plant as a parts welder in 1975 said Kenworth’s decision to open a plant in Chillicothe positively impacted the community. “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.”

Kenworth Community Support of Ross County

 Supporting the local Ross County community is important to Kenworth. For the past 30 years, the Chillicothe plant has partnered with the United Way of Ross County to raise money for the organization’s philanthropic programs. In 2023, the plant raisedapproximately $240,000 through its annual United Way campaign and Kenworth truck parade 50/50 raffle. Since the beginning of the partnership, Kenworth Chillicothe employees have raised more than $2 million and PACCAR has contributed nearly $5 million to the United Way of Ross County.


“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 Truck Company, founded in 1923, specializes in the design and manufacture of The World’s Best® heavy- and medium-duty trucks. As a leader in the development of advanced diesel powertrains, zero emissions vehicles, connected truck technologies and autonomous driving systems, Kenworth is creating transportation solutions to drive a better world. Kenworth’s Internet home page is at Kenworth is a PACCAR company.