The decision by an auto parts supplier to purchase a 375,000-square foot building in Vonore is another good sign that the area’s manufacturing base could be experiencing strong growth in the future.
JTEKT Automotive Tennessee-Vonore, LLC paid $7.25 million for the building and 72 acres it had leased from Cobalt Yachts. Cobalt decided to close the plant in 2007.
The sale of the Cobalt property bodes well for the future, Hammontree said. During the past 12 months Tellico West Industrial Park has seen over 400 new jobs created, bringing the total within the park to over 3,700, he said.
According to a news release, more than 465,000 square feet of local manufacturing or warehousing space has been purchased, leased or built in 2012. The release said that in late 2012, TRDA began to see increased interest in area industrial sites and feels the trend will continue in the new year.
“All these are indications of strengthening in our manufacturing base,” Hammontree said.
According to Hammontree, selling the building was not an easy task during the past few years.
“We thought we had it sold three times,” he said.
JTEKT has been located in Tellico West since 1988, said Craig Woodford, president of JTEKT Vonore. The company had leased the Cobalt building about three years ago.
JTEKT produces both hydraulic and electric power steering components for domestic and foreign automakers including Chrysler, Toyota, Honda and Nissan. The new building is designed to support the expansion into fast-growing markets, he said.
“A lot of vehicles have traditionally used hydraulic systems but now more are moving to electric systems,” he said.
JTEKT began its hiring expansion in 2012, adding about 260 new workers for a total of about 800. More hiring is expected in 2013, he said.
The company chose the building to be close to existing operations and to maintain proximity to local transportation infrastructure. Access to a trained and productive workforce is also a big asset to manufacturing in East Tennessee, he said.