British kayak maker to open distribution center in Unicoi County


Pyranha, a maker of roto-molded canoes and kayaks based in the United Kingdom, has announced the relocation of its North American distribution facility to Erwin.

Pyranha has led the research and development of composite and polymer kayaks since the early 1970s. The company has chosen a site along the Nolichucky River as a North American distribution center. Headquartered in the United Kingdom near Liverpool, Pyranha cited a favorable tax climate and the natural assets of Unicoi County as key drivers of its decision.

The company’s new home in Erwin is near the natural rock escarpment known as “the Devil’s Looking-glass” along the Nolichucky River. This announcement comes as Unicoi County and Northeast Tennessee continue efforts to position the county and region as a premier destination for outdoor adventure.

According to the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), outdoor recreation is a powerful economic engine. The OIA measures the economic impact of outdoor recreation annually on both a local and national level. In 2017, the OIA calculated that $1.59 billion was spent on outdoor recreation each year in Tennessee’s First Congressional District, which includes Unicoi County. The OIA also identified water sports as one of the most popular activities in this district.

“This is exactly the result we hope to see as we continue to encourage investment in our natural capital as a form of economic development,” said Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership’s Outdoor Development Manager, Kayla Carter. “Erwin is ahead of the trend in terms of tapping into the outdoors as a form of economic vitality. All of our regional partners should take note and follow suit as we will all benefit from Pyranha’s investment in Erwin.”

Pyranha expects to invest up to a million dollars in property, plant, and equipment at its new site and hopes the facility will be operational by the fourth quarter of 2018. Kayaks distributed from the site will be sold as far away as the West Coast and across Canada.

Pyranha US Head of Operations Mike Patterson said, “Pyranha’s North American kayak distribution headquarters has been in Asheville, N.C. for over 18 years. We’ve seen the cost of our business rise and the surrounding infrastructure become strained and overly saturated. My wife Melanie and I are longtime Erwin residents, and we saw no better option than Unicoi County when tasked with finding a more suitable location for the company. The proximity to Interstate 26 along with the low cost-of-living, affordable real estate, and low taxes make Erwin and Unicoi County the obvious choice. The facility we chose was one of the first places to come to mind, with room to expand if needed, and access to the beautiful Nolichucky River. We think there is no better place for a kayak company to locate. Unicoi County is sometimes overlooked in favor of larger metropolitan areas. However, as an outdoor focused company, we like the direction that Erwin and Unicoi County are headed with respect to promoting and capitalizing on outdoor recreational opportunities. We feel strongly about the area’s potential and hope to play a part in the economic growth of this place we love so much.”

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