Above: Workers at LPI in Johnson City spray fiberglass onto the shell of a spa.
Johnson City-based hot tub and spa manufacturer LPI, Inc. is adding jobs and backfilling a space where a plant closed earlier this year. LPI CEO David Hatley said “thriving retail sales” drove LPI’s decision to purchase a 126,000-square-foot east Johnson City plant recently vacated by CanTech Industrial, which it will use primarily for distribution and warehousing. Hatley said he expects the expansion to create 150-200 jobs over the next several years.
Hatley’s company utilizes 318,000 square feet of manufacturing space at the former Bosch brake plant on Twin Oaks Drive in south Johnson City, where 275 employees make portable spas that are sold worldwide. “We had hit capacity constraints there,” Hatley said. “Our retail division is growing rapidly, but manufacturing bottlenecks have slowed that growth.”
Aqua Living Factory Outlets, LPI’s retail division, plans to open around 100 retail stores over the next few years, but has only opened seven since announcing those plans in late 2018. “Adding this distribution and warehouse location just down the road from our current facility will free up much-needed manufacturing capacity,” Hatley said. “We can now quickly get back on track with our new store openings and plan to still have that complete in the next few years.”
Hatley said LPI’s leadership investigated multiple communities for its expansion but chose to stay in Johnson City in large part due to a solid relationship with the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership (NeTREP). “Alicia Summers (NeTREP’s VP of Business Development) was instrumental in helping us find a suitable location,” he said. NeTREP also helped LPI access local incentives when it occupied its Twin Oaks Drive building in 2016.
NeTREP’s board chairman, Will Barrett, said LPI has capitalized on its opportunities in a way that benefits the community. “This announcement shows that if you plant the seed and the company can do well and grow, it can really blossom,” Barrett said.
“We are super excited for our planned growth to stay right here in Washington County, where we are very happy to be part of the local community and economy,” Hatley said. “Being able to transform a building where jobs were recently lost and start adding investment and employment makes us proud and happy.”
Barrett agreed. “It’s a great example of a company that can replace a lost industry and make it even better than it was before if you look at it in terms of the wages and jobs that are potentially on the table,” he said. Among the three leading global hot tub manufacturers, LPI is the only one making its product in the United States.