With some 300 workers, Fox Factory has cranked up operations at its new plant off Atlanta Highway in Gainesville.
Business is expected to be really booming at the end of 2021, as the manufacturer and designer of ride dynamics products for bicycles and powered vehicles expects as many as 1,200 employees to fill the building at 2500 West Park Drive.
“Our powered vehicle business has been expanding at low double-digit growth per year in the last couple of years, and we expect to continue on that growth trajectory for many years to come,” said Vivek Bhakuni, director of investor relations and business development.
The hiring number exceeds what company officials envisioned when it announced construction of the 340,000-square-foot plant in 2018.
Moving the headquarters to the Hall County area from California was also part of the announcement. The Gainesville plant opened earlier this year.
“Broadly speaking, we wanted to expand our manufacturing footprint, and we had exhausted the talent pool in the region we operated in,” Bhakuni said of the decision to move. “We also exhausted contiguous space for manufacturing and materials, which means we were in a position where physical expansion was necessary.”
Fox “wanted a place that would be business-friendly, (and have a) good supply chain infrastructure and broad talent pool,” he said.
The company used an outside firm to conduct a search across the U.S., based on company needs.
“Georgia ... offered us great incentives to bring the facility here,” Bhakuni said.
Fox, which has corporate offices in Braselton and a research and development center in partnership with Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, has made up to a $75 million investment locally, he said.
“This area has been great for us,” Richard Winters, president of Fox’s Powered Vehicles Group, told The Times during a recent tour of the plant. “We’ve had great participation and enthusiasm. We struggled a little bit getting employees at first, but it was because we hadn’t established ourselves in the area. … We did that through a job fair and it’s been overwhelming since then.”
The plant is currently building suspension products “geared around off-road vehicles,” said Joseph Cobian, senior director of manufacturing and general manager.
“A lot of our shocks are more adventurous, performance-style,” he said. “They’re not your everyday shocks. It is an elite (product) that is done by hand.”
The Gainesville plant is Fox’s first “vertically integrated” factory, meaning the building is laid out in such a way that products move from materials arriving on one side of the building to finished products and shipping on the other side.
The flow “makes us very agile,” Cobian said. “It has machining, anodizing and shop building all in one location.”
At its old plant in California, Fox had to outsource certain functions, such as anodizing, an electrochemical process that converts a metal surface into a decorative, durable, corrosion-resistant finish.
That capability could be brought in-house in Gainesville, Bhakuni said.
And, added Cobian, the company has been able to increase its quality, as well as capacity for production.
Fox owns an additional 23 acres across the street that can be an expansion location for additional manufacturing or, per agreements with Georgia and Hall County, can be used for corporate offices and/or a research/development center, Bhakuni said.
Winters said one advantage locally for Fox is many folks — especially bike enthusiasts — recognize the brand immediately.
“It’s even better than what we thought,” Winters said. “That’s exactly what we wanted.”