By Amye Anderson
UCBJ Managing Editor
SPARTA – When the Governor shows up, it’s either really bad news or really good news, White County Executive Denny Wayne Robinson told the crowd who gathered for a ceremony in the middle of a sprawling hayfield near the airport Thursday.
“Today, it’s something really good,” he said.
For White County, the news couldn’t get any better than landing a $64 million deal with garage door manufacturer Hörmann, LLC, who is poised to create 200 local, quality-wage jobs at a new facility it plans to build in that same field.
The fourth-generation, Germany-based garage door manufacturer announced Thursday that it plans to locate its newest US-based manufacturing facility near the Fitzgerald Industrial Park, which celebrated its grand opening earlier this summer.
This facility will be the fourth location the company has established in the US.
Initially code-named Project Fox, the project has been in the works since late last fall, according to Stephen Crook, Highlands’ VP of Economic Development.
“This has been a project that we have been working on since Thanksgiving,” he said. “Our region faced some tough competition for this project and we think the partnership between the company and the community will make this a longstanding success for everyone involved.”
Landing the multi-million-dollar deal was a team effort between multiple local and state government officials and locally-based entities involved in various stages throughout the process.
When the Hörmann group began searching for the site of their latest US-based facility, they decided to take an unconventional approach instead of following the traditional path many foreign investors take – seeking out a consulting firm to assist with site selection.
“As a family-owned company, with a 15-year history of doing business in the United States already, we felt like we knew what we were looking for,” Hörmann President Camron Rudd, also a Tennessee native and Tennessee Tech alum, said. “What we were looking for was a community that reflected our values as an organization.”
The group researched and visited a number of available sites across the country in search of the perfect place to set up shop. Of course, a little Tennessee hospitality helped to focus the search efforts here.
Rudd says he visited 17 sites in Tennessee alone. As the search for the site was winding down, White County came to the attention of Hörmann leadership at the last minute. Without even having geotechnical data to provide, the local team, working to bolster White County’s chances, was able to assemble the necessary information and prove they were determined to be a contender.
“They really had to play catch-up,” Rudd said. “They really did show that they wanted it.”
Choosing the right site isn’t as simple as finding the space to house the new facility. It’s a long-term investment, after all. Critical details like ensuring the facility has suitable access to highways and interstates, the right workforce demographics, strong local education and job training facilities all play a key role in boosting a site’s potential of making the short list.
Tennessee reportedly had some of the best sites the group reviewed but ultimately it was the friendly, hospitable nature of the local community that helped White County edge out the competition.
“I am really overwhelmed (with) the Tennessee hospitality,” Christoph Hörmann, managing partner, said. “It’s really special… you have a special state and you are special people.”
Construction of the proposed 350,000 square foot manufacturing facility is slated to begin in early 2018, with plans to be operational in mid-2019. The White County facility will produce residential and commercial sectional garage doors for customers across North America.
Hörmann, LLC is a global company, conducting business in over 60 countries, has factories located in nearly 30 countries, and employs nearly 6,000 people.
“What I think makes this so special, is this is a company, this is a family, that we want in our neighborhood,” Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe said.
“This is a great day for Sparta and White County,” Gov. Bill Haslam said.