Union City, TN – December 4, 2018
Obion County is full of outdoor enthusiasts who will one day be able to purchase boats made locally.
Members of the Obion County Joint Economic Development Council and Obion County Chamber of Commerce joined officials from Excel Boat Company this morning to announce an expansion of the Arkansas company here in Union City.
Excel Boat Company builds aluminum boats in its Mountain View plant, just 70 miles north of Little Rock.
J. Paul Jackson, business operations manager, told The Messenger the Arkansas plant is already undergoing a 25,000-square-foot expansion and will continue to produce boats. He said the expansion there will simply get them back up to production capacity.
The Union City plant will be located in the former VF Factory Outlet building at 601 Sherwood Drive, with plans to open in July 2019. Jackson said it is located just down the road from one of its premier boat dealers — Abernathy’s.
Jackson said chief executive officer Glenn Foreman contacted him on Oct. 28, 2017, and told him he wanted to expand the business. Foreman said it takes forever to get to the freeway from their current factory, so he pulled out a map and saw this area of Tennessee has roadways running north, south, east and west.
“Little did I know that J. Paul knows everybody,” he said of Jackson, who is a native of Dyersburg.
Jackson, who had previously worked with economic development agencies, said he put together a package and within a week received an email. He said Tennessee is attractive to businesses because there is no state income tax, it has the infrastructure to support businesses and it has an aggressive approach to industry on both the local and state levels.
If Excel Boats sounds familiar, it is because earlier this year an announcement was made in Lake County that it would be located in Ridgely.
Jackson said the company originally selected Lake County because it is one of the poorest counties in the state. He said Foreman is a good man and believes in helping people; there fore, he wanted to help the people of Lake County. Jackson said a few months after the announcement, it became apparent that — for a variety of reasons — Lake County was no longer a viable option.
“As soon as we realized it, we knew we needed to look elsewhere,” Jackson said, adding he thought Tennessee was still a viable option. He said they were still looking at northwest Tennessee and looked at Obion County, which actually has a higher unemployment rate than Lake County. In fact, Obion County has the fourth highest unemployment rate in the state at this time.
Jackson, whose grandparents lived in Troy, said he knows the work ethic of people in Obion County and knows the high unemployment rate is not the fault of the community.
He said with Union City’s industrial park qualifying for the New Market Tax Credits, Obion County was a great place to start looking again and just happened to be a great place to finish.
Officials with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development contacted OCJEDC chief executive officer Lindsay Frilling about Excel Boats and she and Union City city manager Kathy Dillon met with company officials.
“We realized everything that was missing in Lake County was already in place here,” Jackson said, adding officials here have the “level of sophistication to close the deal.”
He said they have been impressed with the reception Excel has received from the city council, county commission, Mrs. Frilling and Bedford Dunavant, chairman of the Union City Industrial Development Board.
Excel Boat Company will be hiring workers for aluminum welding, assembly, painting, machine operating, fabrication, upholstery, detail, quality control and maintenance. The average wage will be $15 per hour.
Jackson said one of the coolest things about the company’s boats is that raw material will come in the door as aluminum on a roll and when the boat leaves it will be ready to put on the water.
“Everything happens under this roof,” he said, adding “All cutting, welding, paint, assembly happen here.”
The largest employment class will be welders and the company is working with Tennessee College of Applied Technology to offer aluminum welding training at the Union City campus.
“We love the partnership with TCAT and that they are designing a class for us,” he said.
Excel Boat Company will start with 35-50 people, with plans to employ 175 over the next five years. Employees will be hired through American Job Center in Union City and everyone who is interested may start applying there now.
“It’s important that we find workers,” Jackson said.
The company plans to invest around $7.5 million in Obion County. The existing building is less than 70,000 square feet and is in good condition. The walls will be removed and the roof, HVAC and sprinkler system will all get a redo. The company will also invest in energy efficient lighting. He said the company plans to access everything locally for the planned work.
Jackson said they will add about 15,000 square feet to the front of the building for offices, employee locker and break rooms and a showroom. He stressed the company will not sell directly to the public from this location.