Canadian truck parts manufacturer bringing 'jobs of the future' to Phipps Bend

Jeff Bobo • May 16, 2018 at 5:30 PM

SURGOINSVILLE — Not only is Canada-based RMC Advanced Technologies opening a new plant in Hawkins County and hiring 54 employees, but that location will also be the company’s U.S. headquarters and base for future expansion.

RMC and its parent company, SIGMA Industries Inc., manufacture large body parts for just about every big rig on the interstates today, and by this time next year, those big rigs will be hauling large truck parts out of the Phipps Bend Industrial Park.

On Wednesday morning, RMC officials were joined at their new Phipps Bend plant by several local, regional and state economic authorities including Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe.

The occasion was to officially announce RMC’s purchase of Hawkins County’s long vacant 70,000-square-foot spec building.

RMC brings high-tech manufacturing to Phipps Bend

Rolfe noted that RMC will build a state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing facility, investing $7 million and creating more than 50 high paying “jobs of the future.”

“They’re about advanced manufacturing,” Rolfe said. “Higher quality, higher skilled people, but the great news is, while there may be fewer people, the quality of the jobs are higher in family wages.”

The plant will use robots, a fact that made the site’s proximity to the Tennessee College of Applied Technology campus at Phipps Bend an added bonus. TCAT has a major robotics training program.

Hawkins County completed its $1.3 million spec building in 2009, but just as it went on the market, the massive national economic crisis hit, and industrial growth dwindled to almost nothing.

Still, Rolfe praised the Hawkins County Industrial Development Board and other local officials for their courage to construct the spec building. 

“Thanks to some great leadership locally, we are so grateful. I say that to you because it’s a partnership. While we at the state recruit globally and travel the world, when we bring companies to Tennessee, at the end of the day it’s about the local community.”

Canadians, Tennesseans now united by more than NHL hockey

SIGMA CEO Denis Bertrand opened his remarks with a jab at Nashville Predators fans, who were ousted from the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Winnipeg Jets.

With its U.S. headquarters now being located in Tennessee, however, Bertrand said the company will be split between Jets and Predators supporters.

Bertrand said two main reasons he was attracted to Surgoinsville were proximity to his customer base and the fact that the community made him and his Canadian associates feel extremely welcome.

RMC’s main customers in this area are Volvo, Freightliner, Oshkosh, JLG, Peterbilt and Kenworth.

“Because of our positioning in Surgoinsville, we are within 200-250 kilometers (124-155 miles) of our major customers,” Bertrand said. “And, because we are here today, we have another possibility of developing another 60-70 new customers in different industries. It is a great potential for us as we’re developing.”

Bertrand added, “There’s tremendous opportunity on the automobile side, on the windmill side. There’s opportunity on the aerospace side with Airbus and Boeing in the Carolinas.”

Why make Phipps Bend the company’s U.S. headquarters?

“It’s not just a plant we’re setting up. We’re really setting up the future of the U.S. company. This is why we’re bringing our headquarters to Surgoinsville. It will give us the opportunity also to bring in executives on that side within the next few years,” Bertrand said.

What type of employee will be hired?

“The plant will be hiring locally for the most part,” Bertrand said. “There will be some transplants from Canada to do the startup, but it will be run by Tennesseans and managed by Tennesseans.

“We’re looking more, as we grow the business, especially on the advanced technology side, at technical people coming in. Some laborers, because we do have some different tasks to do. But as we bring in the robots, the robots will be taking the menial tasks away and giving our employees that next step. More of growing a job instead of just having a job.”

Was the local public school emphasis on robotics an attraction?

“Looking at the area, we know people are not afraid of robots. Now with the collaborative robots, you’re working with a robot in a cell. What the employees love about it is they’re getting an opportunity to grow their skills,” said Bertrand.

What’s the timeline to begin production?

“By the end of 2018, have the floor in and transferring equipment form Canada. By the first quarter of 2019 should be up and running,” Bertrand said.

What exactly does the company make?

“We manufacture large composite parts for the truck/bus industry. Hoods, roofs, flooring, a lot of body work. We do interiors also. Basically we do large parts. When you’re looking at a Class A truck — a Peterbuilt, Volvo, a Kenworth, Freightliner — you will see some of our parts on there which are hoods, and roofs and fairings.”

Kids will ask, “Where do I sign up?”

“This is going to be the kind of company that, when we want our kids to get excited about manufacturing, we’re going to bring them here,” said NETWORKS CEO Clay Walker. “When they see all the robots running all around the floor and high-tech working conditions, they’re going to say, ‘That’s manufacturing? Where do I sign up?’ ”

Thanks to all those involved

“A company like this was exactly what we envisioned to locate in the spec building in Phipps Bend Industrial Park. The quality of jobs RMC will bring to Hawkins County speaks volumes about the company and what it will provide to our community. I’d like to thank NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership, TVA, Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development, and Rebecca Baker for their hard work and many hours of service in helping to locate RMC to Hawkins County,” said Hawkins County IDB Chairman Larry Elkins.


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