It was recently announced that Van Hool, a family-owned Belgian manufacturer of buses and other commercial vehicles, plans to break ground on a 500,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Morristown, TN. The company’s goal is to bring over 600 jobs to East Tennessee and produce around 400 public transit buses per year. If various projections are met, the company could employ upwards of 1,200 workers within five years of the facility’s launch date of Q1 2020.
This is Van Hool’s first foray into manufacturing in the United States, but it’s certainly not the first time a company has chosen the Southeastern region of the country to open a few facility. Earlier this year, Mazda and Toyota announced plans to build a joint manufacturing facility in Huntsville, Alabama. We also wrote about the recent announcement of Corning, Inc. coming to North Carolina with a plant of their own, Samsung increasing their stateside production in Newberry, South Carolina, and Denso Corporation expanding their operations in Athens, Tennessee. Aside from a few of the obvious incentives to build in this region, such as tax breaks or free parcels of land, many of these states have something in common that’s attracting businesses to their area: education.
The Volunteer State’s Tennessee Promise program focuses on providing higher education programs to train local students and workers in the skills that companies like Van Hool and Denso Corp. are looking for. Universities have gotten in on the trend as well, with Clemson University partnering with BMW and Siemens to develop a research center for vehicle assembly that can directly train local college students on the skills and practices in need. This education-first approach has many benefits.
- Businesses new to the area can hire locally without having to spend lots of time and money on onboarding and training
- Keeping students in the region improves worker retention and demand for jobs, which can spark interest from more companies looking to relocate or expand their operations
- Igniting student interest in manufacturing fields resupplies the worker pool and drums up interest in job fields once thought to be dying out
- Businesses and workers that stay local naturally impact the economy and infrastructure of the surrounding region, improving small business performance, roads, housing, schools and much more
It’s likely that this week’s Morristown announcement is just another in a long line of announcements to come for facilities expanding their U.S. footprint. Which state do you think is next to drum up interest from foreign companies? Let us know in the comments below.