Bus-maker will bring 640 jobs to Morristown


Belgian bus manufacturer Van Hool will build its first American plant in Morristown, employing at least 600 to start and possibly as many as 1,200 within five years.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, state Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe, company executives and officials from the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce and other agencies turned out for the ceremony.

“I’m confident they’ll be a great long- term community member,” Haslam said.

Van Hool is a family-owned maker of buses, trolleys and truck trailers. Founded in 1947, the company sells mostly highway coaches in the U.S.

“We’ve delivered over 11,000 vehicles in North America since 1987,” CEO Filip Van Hool said in a company news release. “Based on this experience and through market research, we have learned that the public transportation market, with a total annual potential of 6,000 to 8,000 vehicles, offers opportunities for Van Hool.”

The Morristown factory will make public transit buses, which are still being designed, said Dirk Snauwaret, public relations manager for Van Hool.

Filip Van Hool said the company must build buses in the U.S. to compete in the domestic public-transit market. The 1982 “Buy America Act” requires vehicles bought by American public entities to be assembled in the United States, use all-American steel, and 70 percent U.S.-made parts.

A project description said the facility will be a 500,000-square-foot plant on 140 acres.

The site is Lot 3 of the East Tennessee Progress Center, which was just announced April 5 as a “Select Tennessee Certified Site,” sponsored by the Morristown Chamber.

Announced estimates of the plant’s production, employment and required investment varied.

Filip Van Hool said it will be a $50 million investment, plus $50 million in working capital; and that the company will hire 640 to produce 500 buses per year.

He said the company will start a local engineering department to design buses for the U.S. market, which will require hiring engineers locally and require collaboration with regional research facilities and universities.

Van Hool was impressed by the area’s technical education capacity and Morristown’s tradition of manufacturing, but also looked at 15 other sites. The decisive factor was state and local cooperation with the company, Filip Van Hool said.

Filip Van Hool said it’s the company’s biggest single investment, and its second international venture; Van Hool also has a plant in Skopje, Macedonia.

Construction should start at the end of summer 2018, and be finished in the first quarter of 2020.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel by Jim Gaines

The East Tennessee Economic Development Agency markets and recruits business for the 15 counties in the greater Knoxville-Oak Ridge region of East Tennessee. Visit www.eteda.org

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