The planned expansion of FMC Technologies couldn't have come at a better time.

With a still-sluggish economy and unemployment across the nation hovering at just under 9 percent, the fact that FMC will soon be hiring 80-100 people is welcome news.

"This is a major undertaking," said FMC Operations Manager Fernando Camuzzi. "And it's a major commitment to our community."

The "undertaking" and "commitment" Camuzzi is referring to is a three-year expansion that will include a building addition, an increase in capital equipment and improvements to the existing facilities and product lines.

FMC opened in Stephenville in 1981 operating with one product line and employing approximately 180 associates. The facility has since expanded to include five product lines and more than 650 employees.

Construction on the new facility is expected to break ground in the spring.

The new facility will be connected to the east, west and north side of the existing facility and include 60,000 square feet of production, 12,000 square feet of warehouse space and 100 additional parking spots. The construction should be complete during the first quarter of 2012.

FMC will begin hiring the additional workforce this year with the majority of the recruiting taking place in Erath County.

"We will begin hiring in the next several months so we can begin training people to run the equipment," Camuzzi said.

The massive project is driven by an increased activity associated with hydraulic fracturing and drilling of various natural gas fields and shales, including the Barnett Shale.

"The FMC expansion will help the company meet demand for products that support oil and gas fracturing and drilling," Camuzzi said. "Approval for this expansion is due in part to our proximity to the oil and gas markets. However, this endeavor was made possible by our employees' dedication to quality and work ethics. What sets us apart from our competitors is our commitment to excellence and the knowledge that our local community is behind us in every step that we make."