Denso Manufacturing Tennessee, Inc is to invest US$185m and add approximately 500 jobs at its Maryville, TN. electronic parts facility, the company said yesterday (6 December).

Since 1990 the Japanese company has expanded its presence in the Knoxville area from 250 employees to become the region's largest manufacturer with a US$1 billion investment and 2,500 employees.

"Blount County's first contact with Denso was in 1988. Since then, the company has gone through six expansions and now ranks as the community's top employer," said Joe Dawson, chair of Blount County's Industrial Development Board. "We've developed such strong international ties that we've opened a satellite office in Japan that has helped strengthen the Innovation Valley region."

The announcement comes on the heels of a decision by Nissan to move its corporate headquarters and 1,300 positions from California to Franklin, TN., just south of Nashville. Tennessee's auto industry employs about 125,000 people. The state now ranks fifth among all states in overall automotive production.

"This announcement is another vote of confidence by Denso in the quality and quantity of the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley's workforce," said Allen Neel, president and CEO of the East Tennessee Economic Development Agency.