Kubota Manufacturing of America is building — again — but the new building is an expansion of the company’s operations in Hall County, not a new operation, Phil Sutton, chief administrative officer for Kubota, said Thursday.
The new building, 502,000 square feet, is in Gateway Center, the county’s newest industrial park. Kubota bought 180 acres in the development.
The facility is on about 43 acres of that land, Sutton said. The Gateway Centre building is the largest in Hall County, Sutton said.
The company now has about 1.1 million square feet in the county.
Kubota has a “certificate of occupancy” for the new building. Infrastructure work, including for information technology, continues.
Work on the assembly lines and the “trapeze,” which includes tools for the assembly, also has to be done.
Installing the painting system will take place over several months, he said.
He explained the new building is for an expansion that will ripple through the company’s Hall County plants. The expansion is projected to increase Kubota’s production capacity by about 50 percent, Sutton said.
The Gateway Centre plant will make the company’s rough-terrain vehicles, which will move from the Ramsey Road location, a few miles away. That will allow for expansion of the turf and lawn equipment at Ramsey Road.
The second building at Ramsey Road also will expand its production of subcompact tractors.
The new facility will have two assembly lines — one for smaller and one for larger utility vehicles, Sutton explained.
Expansion and renovation at the other two buildings are planned by early 2018, he said.
“It’s not like this is a startup factory that’s never been operated,” Sutton said. The work will gradually increase — and employment will gradually grow with it.
He said the company is hiring now and will “show gradual growth.” Nonskilled and skilled labor and professional positions such as engineers are being hired, he said.
“Some limited operation” will begin in the new facility in the November-December time, Sutton said, but “full operations” are planned for the “first quarter of ’17.”
Over five years, Sutton said, Kubota expects to add about 580 employees. The company now has about 1,370 in Hall County.
It is Kubota’s second major expansion. The first was the Jefferson plant, which is now 900,000 square feet and nearly 1,000 employees.
Sutton said Kubota recently has raised entry level pay. He said nonskilled labor positions now pay $12 an hour and entry-level welders make $14.50.
He added the company had hired employees in the past from temporary staff members from outside agencies — temp to permanent. Kubota now is hiring directly and continuing using temp agencies.
The Hall County facility also is training employees in-house, including for other company plants in Canada and Europe.
“It’s a very mature operation,” Sutton said.
He pointed out Kubota tries “to be very environmentally friendly in keeping with Kubota’s theme of ‘For Earth, For Life.’”
The large assembly area includes windows around the top, skylights the length of the building and low energy, high-output lights. He said the company’s water-based paint also is environmentally sensitive.
He praised Gov. Nathan Deal and the state for being “so helpful and so supportive” of manufacturing.
He said the state technical college system, which focuses on workforce development, is a major part of that. That system is “the best in the United States,” said Sutton, a member at large of the state board for the technical college system.
Work continues at Gateway site, other than on the building. Grading is being done for a large portion of the remaining land.
Sutton said it “made sense” to grade the entire site while equipment was there. He said dirt from one part of the site was used to level another part.
He added Kubota has no specific expansion plans for the graded site, but he said, “We didn’t buy and grade that land for anybody else.”