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July 2004

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Tennessee Can Really Move

    Tennessee has proven it can attract a diverse range of industries in recent years, from bio-medical research and manufacturing to transportation and logistics to automotive manufacturing and related suppliers. Federal Express has transformed Memphis from a formidable logistics and distribution hub to a powerhouse in that arena, with 30,000 of the state's nearly 31,000 FedEx employees in the Memphis metro alone. Throw in UPS's 8,600 workers and Chattanooga-based U.S. Xpress's 7,300 employees and Tennessee becomes hard to beat as a center for air courier services. (At press time, U.S. Xpress had announced another expansion of 500-1,000 employees at its headquarters complex.)
      Two relatively recent (by Detroit standards) automotive projects -- Saturn Corp.'s Spring Hill plant and Nissan Motor Manufacturing's Smyrna facility -- rank among the state's top 10 largest private employers with 8,400 and 6,300 workers respectively.
Thomas Built Buses recently began production at its new $39.7 million, 275,000-sq.-ft. (25,500-sq.-m.) plant in High Point, N.C. The new plant will add about 180 jobs when it reaches capacity. It houses a 3/4-mile long assembly line and is capable of producing 22 buses per shaft. Thomas, located in High Point since 1916, is a member of the Freightliner Group, a DaimlerChrysler company.

      Suppliers to these plants continue to invest in Tennessee. In May 2004, Nissan supplier PK USA opened a 62,000-sq.-ft. (5,760-sq.-m.) metal-stamping plant in Gallatin, creating up to 70 new jobs. In Chattanooga, Tennessee Rand Corp. plans to invest $11 million in a 200,000-sq.-ft. (18,580-sq.-m.) facility. The company, which supplies robotic systems to tier-one and tier-two automotive suppliers, already has operations in the city; the current expansion will add 100 jobs to the payroll.
      Exedy America Corp., another Nissan supplier, is adding 86,000 sq. ft. (8,000 sq. m.) to its torque converter manufacturing plant in Knoxville. The $56-million expansion will create nearly 200 new jobs and an additional $5.5 million in wages. The plant was expanded in 2002 by 96,000 sq. ft. (8,900 sq. m.). When the new expansion is complete, the facility will have 419,000 sq. ft. (39,000 sq. m.) of space. Exedy America is based in Mascot, Tenn., northeast of Knoxville. Clinton, another Knoxville suburb, is the location of a new plant for Aisin Automotive Casting Tennessee, a subsidiary of Japanese parts manufacturer Aisin Seiki Co. Ltd. The $67-million, 280,000-sq.-ft. (26,000-sq.-m.) plant will create 400 jobs by 2007.
      "Aisin Seiki, our parent company, was very familiar with Clinton, as [nearby] Eagle Bend Industrial Park was a final candidate for their very first plant in North America almost 17 years ago," noted Ken Tsujimura, president of Aisin Automotive Casting.
      Other industries, too, are expanding in the Volunteer State. The food-processing sector, for instance, saw two Tennessee expansions in March alone. Frito-Lay is investing $4 million to expand its Fayetteville manufacturing and distribution facility, which will create 30 to 40 new jobs. And Atys US, a unit of France-based Atys U.S., is locating a manufacturing operation in an existing Hickman County facility, where it will operate fruit processing equipment. The $16-million investment will result in up to 100 jobs over the next three years.
      McKee Foods, which markets baked goods under the Little Debbie label, is expanding its Chattanooga plant with a $7.5-million investment, which will result in 100 new jobs. And Koch Foods is building a new, 67,000-sq.-ft. (6,200-sq.-m.) chicken de-boning plant in Morristown that will replace an existing facility in that town.


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