A Chicago-based auto parts manufacturer has located a branch of its operations in Provo, creating about 50 jobs.

Auto Meter Products Inc. will begin manufacturing at its 12,000-square-foot plant in the Billings Industrial Park on Larsen Parkway next month, Utah division manager Ralph Westberg said.Westberg said the state's Job Service is handling applications for the estimated 50 manufacturing and assembly positions the new plant will bring.

State economic development officials hope, however, that the number of jobs created by Auto Meter will reach 100-150.

"We are confident that as Auto Meter finds success in Utah they will exercise options to expand operations here," said Kirk Green of Utah's Department of Community and Economic Development.

Auto Meter, a 31-year-old privately held concern, manufactures instruments and gauges, such as tachometers and oil pressure gauges, for high-performance cars and also auto testing equipment for service shops. The Provo plant will manufacture mechanical pressure and temperature gauges.

Based in Illinois, Auto Meter employs about 200 at its plant in Sycamore, a suburb of Chicago, and markets its products worldwide, Westberg said.

He explained that Auto Meter doesn't disclose financial information, but exceptionally good growth prompted the firm to expand. Auto Meter acquired two acres adjacent to the Provo facility - the company's first expansion effort - for possible future growth.

Utah was selected out of several locations because of its labor market, Westberg said. Local and state economic development officials added that Westberg also has family living in Provo.

"They (Auto Meter) saw our workforce and the local economy to support what they do," said Mike Vanchiere of Provo City Economic Development.

"We are ecstatic. They will be creating basic jobs in manufacturing that will have a ripple effect in the economy as they buy supplies from local vendors and create more jobs that way."

Vanchiere said Provo eased zoning laws to allow Auto Meter off-site parking for the new manufacturing plant.