CREDIT TO AUTHOR: KIRSTIE CRAWFORD, NOVEMBER 2, 2021
MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (WATE) — An outdoor equipment company is moving some of its manufacturing from China to Morristown, creating at least 200 jobs and investing at least $20 million in the process.
Greenworks Commercial makes battery-operated outdoor power equipment with lithium-ion batteries. Morristown already houses about 100 manufacturing and industrial companies. City leaders work hard to procure those businesses, including Greenworks.
“It’s always a big deal for Morristown when you have somebody wanting to come in with a major investment and they’re offering 200 jobs,” Morristown Mayor Gary Chesney said.
Chesney said Greenworks coming to town will be good for the community for several reasons, including the fact that it will create more diversity when it comes to the products they manufacture.
“They’re power, battery-powered yard equipment. That’s a new industry for us,” Chesney said.
Having a new industry is good for the local economy, according to Chesney and Marshall Ramsey, the President of the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce. They’ve learned from history that having a range of businesses is necessary.
“Morristown, historically, was a furniture manufacturing town. And the challenge in that was, when furniture went down, everything in town went down,” Ramsey said.
Chesney and Ramsey believe Morristown is often attractive for manufacturers because they have a wide pool of employees.
“So our workforce area is about the eight surrounding counties. So, your Cockes, your Greenes, your Hancocks, your Graingers, Claiborne, Sevier. I think we draw over a thousand workers a day from Knox County,” Ramsey said.
He said about 55% of the city’s workforce comes from out of town. Which is another reason why the city is attractive to larger employers: easy travel.
“We’re blessed to have interstates 40, 81 and 75, and then have that proximity to 26 as well. So, what we hear from a lot of companies are the quality of workforce in our region, and the logistical advantage,” Ramsey said.
Although most of the workforce is coming from out of town, more housing permits are being requested, which means more homes will become available in the near future.
City leaders have been working to build a community people enjoy living in as well. The city is in the works of constructing a new recreation center, and in recent years the area has become known for its disc golf courses.
Ramsey and Chesney said Greenworks will be another piece keeping their economy up, which in turn funds education and creates even more workforce.
“Generally with higher-tech comes higher wages. So that’s always good and goes back to our education system. So we’re going to rely on our people to become more educated and more trained, so they can fill these higher-tech jobs,” Ramsey said.
Chesney said the city and state have already invested in creating a larger workforce by reaching out to high school kids and expanding their Tennessee College of Applied Technology Morristown.
Greenworks is expected to start operations at the old General Electric plant in the Spring of 2022. It will be a ‘Commercial Center of Excellence,’ and will include a 181,000 square foot manufacturing facility producing commercial ride-on vehicles and mowers and technologically advanced commercial-grade batteries.
Greenworks’ Morristown campus will also include a 20,000 square foot customer experience center located on 30 acres of green space, which will be used for dealer training and events as well as product development and testing.