The new facility will also increase quality, reduce damage and prevent injuries that currently happen because of the cramped conditions in the 255,000 square-foot facility, he said.
“Better work environment, better product and more of it. That’s just really the trifecta,” Wheeler said.
Airstream will move into the new plant when it shuts down for its one-week Christmas break and will begin manufacturing the silver trailers at the start of the new year, Wheeler said. It will have storage space so workers don’t have to truck materials from a warehouse across town, a media center that overlooks the whole facility to raise brand awareness, double the current two finishing lanes, a museum to show Airstream’s more than 80-year heritage, a full cafeteria and an overhead system where workers can build the roof without walking on it.
The company employs 960 workers, including the 600 workers manufacturing travel trailers and another 150 workers making motor homes. Close to 150 employees are in engineering, purchasing, sales and other overhead jobs that support production.
The plant that manufactured motor homes across the street from the main production site will become the service hub in Jackson Center, another space that has needed more room and wider repair lanes, Wheeler said.
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When looking to increase production, Airstream considered expanding to more than first shift, said COO Justin Humphreys, but ultimately the company decided to invest in Shelby County’s new plant to keep one shift.
“That’s really what employees want is a first shift operation, for family life, quality life,” Humphreys said. “They really love that they’re going to stay on one shift.”
It also could have moved production to west of the Rocky Mountains where 60 percent of Airstreams end up or to the site of Airstream’s parent company Thor Industries in Elkhart, Indiana.
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But the company wanted to stay in Jackson Center because Airstream’s are mostly built by hands that “belong to craftspeople, many of who have worked here for decades,” Wheeler said.
“This is tremendous for the village of Jackson Center — a small village of 1,400 people. Having a facility, having a company like Airstream that calls Jackson Center home is a true blessing,” said the village’s mayor Scott Klopfenstein. “We know that what they bring to our community, employees, tax base, makes our community much, much easier to financially run and make a nice place for people to live.”
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