(L-R) Allen Borden, Bobby Rolfe, Joe Grandy, Alicia Summers, Joe Wise, Mark Shiring, Michael Wackenhut, Mitch Miller. Photo courtesy NeTREP
by Scott Robertson
A Germany-based electric motor and fan manufacturing company will begin operations at a temporary site in Johnson City in a few weeks before building its own plant in the Washington County Industrial Park. ebm-papst U.S. President Mark Shiring was joined by Tennessee Commissioner of Economic and Community Development Bobby Rolfe in making the announcement at the industrial park last week.
“This has been a project we have been working on for over a year,” Shiring told a crowd of around 100 at the industrial park. “We’re happy to finally select Johnson City/Washington County, Tenn., as our second U.S. manufacturing site.”
The site is close to the AO Smith manufacturing facility in Johnson City. AO Smith is an ebm-papst customer. That having been said, ebm-papst is well-protected from economic uncertainty because it has customers in several diverse industries. Shiring told the crowd, “We supply ventilation, air conditioning, heating, appliances, transportation medical and industrial. Part of the equipment that cools buildings, that cools homes, that cools data centers – refrigeration equipment for grocery stores – we cool transit buses – we provide cooling for greenhouses and livestock. We provide precision cooling for medical equipment, motors for conveyors and inter-logistics equipment in warehouses – if there’s motion or movement, then you’ll find ebm-papst fans inside.”
Though based in Germany, the firm has what Shiring referred to as a local-for-local strategy. “We want to build products in the U.S. that are consumed in North America.” The company’s U.S. operations are based in Farmington, Conn. “We have a long history there with 300 employees that’s not going away,” Shiring said. “We are growing and we need to expand our production footprint to meet that local-for-local strategy. That’s why we’ve come to Johnson City.”
Another key factor in the ebm-papst’s decision to locate in Washington County was the workforce, Shiring said. “East Tennessee State University and the TCAT schools provide local education and a great talent pool to support our business, and we were impressed by the investment in education here and how the TCAT program here can integrate with our specific skill requirements.”
“The community here is the right size for us,” Shiring said, noting that the international headquarters is in a small town in Germany, and that Farmington is similar in size to Johnson City. “We want to be an important part of this community and a positive corporate citizen. ebm-papst is still located and thriving in this small town of Mulfingen in Germany, where our founder started the company over 50 years ago. We’ve been in Farmington for over 30 years. When we start in a community, we plan to be there for a very long time. So, it is with that very careful and methodical evaluation we select Johnson City to grow into the future and be here for a very long time.”
Production will begin in late summer or early fall at the leased Johnson City facility, and expand from there. The company plans to have 68 employees in place by the end of 2019, and 179 employees within five years.
The company received incentives from both Washington County and the state of Tennessee. Rolfe said, “Tennessee is home to more than 120 German-owned establishments that employ nearly 20,000 employees. I want to thank ebm-papst for choosing to locate its new operations in Washington County and for boosting our foreign direct investment initiatives in our state by creating 200 jobs in the Northeast region.”
Added Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy, “We are thrilled by ebm-papst’s decision to locate its manufacturing operations in the Washington County Industrial Park and I thank the Washington County Commission for their foresight in supporting the efforts to bring ebm-papst to Washington County.”
Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership CEO Mitch Miller credited Alicia Summers, vice president of business development, for running point on NeTREP’s effort to recruit ebm-papst. Washington County competed with a community in Texas for the project. The ebm-papst announcement represents the largest single capital investment in Washington County since 2011.