Employees, retirees and special guests recently gathered to help the A.O. Smith Electrical Products Co. plant in Mebane, N.C., celebrate 25 years in the electric-motor industry.

The 225,000-square-foot facility, which manufactures hermetic motors for commercial air-conditioning equipment, began production in 1978.

The plant was A. O. Smith's first motor operation in the Southeast. It originally assembled fractional horsepower motors used in heating, air conditioning and pumps.

Employees at the plant recently worked more than 1 million hours without a lost-time accident, and the plant has earned the A. O. Smith President's Safety Award three times.

Introduced during the ceremony were employees who have been with the company in Mebane for 25 years, including J. B. Thompson, Tom Kenyon, Teresa Cheek, Rolanda Roetter, Brenda Cathcart, Faye Neese, Etta Foster, Nellie Totten, Carolyn Lewis and Benny Crisp.

At its peak in 1986, the facility was producing approximately 10,000 fractional horsepower motors each day.

In the late 1980s, Mebane assembled small motors for Winchester computer disk drives, setting up a clean room for the assembly and packaging processes. For short periods, it also produced variable-speed motors for exercise equipment and vehicle drive motors for Chrysler Corp.'s hybrid electric cars.

In 1992, the company began assembling hermetic motors for commercial air-conditioning compressors at the plant.

To commemorate the anniversary, the A.O. Smith Foundation created an endowment at Alamance Community College. The foundation presented a $15,000 check to college officials.

Beginning in August, the scholarship will provide an annual scholarship to a student attending the college. Recipients will be chosen based on academic record and financial need.