MORRISTOWN – Belgian bus manufacturer Van Hool will build its first US factory in Morristown, employing at least 600 employees within five years and possibly as many as 1,200 employees.
About 100 people have participated in the announcement at the Progress Center Industrial Park in East Tennessee. The industrial park is located opposite the already rated factory. Six blue Van Hool flags line up on the roadside, and a licensed bus from Knoxville’s Premier Transportation sits nearby as an example of the company’s products.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslan, State Economic and Community Development Committee Bob Rolf, company executives and Morristown District Chamber of Commerce and other agency officials attended the Howard Allen Road ceremony in 1725.
“I believe they will be a good long-term community member,” said Haslam.
In order to end the event, nine men held eight golden iron shovels. Haslam is in the middle, guiding other people how to pick and assemble the camera’s red dirt.
Van Hool is a family costume manufacturer of buses, trolleys and truck trailers. The company was founded in 1947 and mainly sells American road coaches.
“We have delivered more than 11,000 cars in North America since 1987,” CEO Filip Van Hool said in a company news release. “Based on this experience and through market research, we learned that the public transportation market with an average annual potential of 6,000 to 8,000 vehicles provides opportunities for Van Hool.”
Dirk Snauwaret, public relations manager at Van Hool, said the Morristown plant will make buses that are still under design.
Filip Van Hool said the company must build buses in the United States to compete in the domestic bus market. The Buy USA Act of 1982 required vehicles purchased by U.S. public entities to be assembled in the United States using U.S. steel and 70% U.S. manufactured parts.
A project description stated that the facility will occupy 140 acres and cover an area of 500,000 square feet.
The site is Lot 3 of the East Tennessee Advancing Center and was announced on April 5 as the “Select Tennessee Certified Site” sponsored by the Morristown Chamber of Commerce.
“Certification qualifications include: at least 20 acres of developable land for industrial operations, proper zoning for ease of development, existing on-site facilities or formal plans to expand the utility to the site, and truck-quality road access,” The TNECD website says.
According to TNECD, the site has a total of 116 acres, 42 are available for development, and 374 are available. It is classified for heavy industrial use and is priced at $24,000 per acre.
Harrison said Van Hall purchased the land from Morristown.
The estimates for factory production, employment, and required investment differ from each other.
Along with the textual representation of the plant’s schematic diagram, it will employ 600 cars per year and make 400 buses.
Haslam stated that he will invest 47 million U.S. dollars and create 640 jobs. A company press release agrees with these figures, while a national press release agrees with the amount of investment, but in the next five years touted “almost 640” positions.
Filip Van Hool said it will invest 50 million U.S. dollars, plus 50 million U.S. dollars in working capital; and the company will employ 640 cars per year to produce 500 buses.
Later, Haslam said that the factory will employ 670 people.
Finally, Filip Van Hool stated that the first phase of the factory will employ 600 employees – but if all goes well, production capacity and employment will double in four to five years, with a total of 1,200 jobs.
He said that the company will start the local engineering department to design buses for the US market, which will require the recruitment of engineers locally and require cooperation with regional research institutions and universities.
He said Van Hool was impressed with the technical education capabilities of the region and Morristown’s costume manufacturer tradition, but also saw 15 other sites. Filip Van Hool said that the decisive factor is cooperation with the company’s national and local.
Hamblen County Mayor Bill Brittain said that Morristown already has more than 100 manufacturers.
Filip Van Hool said this is the company’s largest single investment and its second international investment. Van Hool also has a factory in Skopje, Macedonia.
Harrison said that Van Hall is expected to receive a national award, but these awards will be announced before the contract is signed. The project is expected to qualify for the state FastTrack program. He said that the program provides subsidies for infrastructure and job training.
Jack Fishman, chairman of the Morristown Industrial Development Committee, said that Van Hool will obtain a certain percentage of revenue from local taxes through the PILOT program. He stated that the number and duration of PILOT is a proportion of the investment scale, which is the largest single commitment made to Morristown for at least 50 years.