Kubota unveiled its new Gainesville research and development facility with a loud Japanese welcome, featuring taiko drumming and a ceremonial breaking of sake barrels to honor the $90 million project.
Gov. Brian Kemp spoke at the event to show his support before a crowd of a couple hundred people, including many Kubota workers, company executives, state legislators and local government officials.
“We are honored by your presence in Georgia,” Kemp said to Kubota’s leadership team. “Just as you’re proud of your facilities here and proud of our state, we’re just as proud of the Kubota brand and proud that you’re making these products in our great state.”
The facility spans 283 acres, 150 of which are already developed. It contains nearly 180,000 square feet of office space where research and development teams work on prototypes, tweak existing models and work to streamline manufacturing processes. The main building contains testing labs, workshops and engineering offices.
Kubota primarily manufactures tractors, rough terrain vehicles and construction equipment including backhoes, and the facility has ample space to test models with a mile-long track, a 7.5-acre skid pad, a 7.5-acre dirt yard and a 17-acre turf field and other outdoor areas where engineers can test equipment for durability, steering and power.
“The agriculture industry is the biggest business in the State of Georgia, so we are excited that Kubota, a world leader in agriculture equipment, has chosen Georgia as the home of its North American research and development center,” Kemp said.
The facility uses 100% renewable energy, said Kirk Payne, a research and development team leader, including three “sunflower” solar panels that open and rotate to absorb sunlight.
The new facility is the “last piece in the puzzle,” for Kubota in North America, said Shingo Hanada, president and CEO for Kubota Tractor and Kubota North America Corporations. They now have the ability to manufacture, sell and develop models all in America, Hanada said.
The facility has been in operation since early February, Payne said, and they have about 80 employees currently with plans to expand to 200 employees over the next five years. Throughout its operations in the state, Kubota employs more than 3,000 Georgians.
“This new R&D center here in Georgia is going to allow us to continue to innovate products and solution advancements with our U.S. and Canada customers’ needs in mind,” said Yuichi Kitao, president and representative director of Kubota Corporation.
Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, who is running for lieutenant governor, introduced Kemp both praising Kubota as a company and taking time to praise the governor, calling him “one of the strongest men (he has) ever known” for his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Kubota has been a good member of our community, contributing to our economy, our culture, our schools, just being involved making contributions not just monetarily but personally with sweat equity,” Miller said.
The project got a boost last September, when the Gainesville and Hall County Development Authority voted to issue $90 million in bonds to support it. Officials have said the average salary for employees at the facility will be more than $80,000.