Last Friday dawned sunny and pleasant, thank goodness, because Moxley Carmichael folks had planned an outdoor event at 10 a.m. Outdoor events are always risky, but it’s pretty hard to have a groundbreaking indoors, so . . .
The occasion was the welcoming of BHS Corrugated into Knox County as the first business to locate in the county’s Hardin Business Park in deep west Knox County. BHS is a German company that makes corrugating rolls. These are the huge cylinders that create the middle layer of the cardboard in a cardboard box — the wavy part between two smooth surfaces. The company currently has a plant in Rutledge, Tennessee, but had expressed a need to relocate to a site more convenient to the interstate highway system. Just one of the reasons for the move is that BHS ships its products and receives its supplies by truck and trucking companies have been charging the firm extra because of the Rutledge plant’s distance from the interstate.
Folks from the Knoxville Chamber and The Development Corporation of Knox County say they have been working through most of 2012 to convince BHS to move to Knox County. The competition has been stiff — in particular from Charlotte, North Carolina. I was surprised and intrigued by some of the things the company’s leaders had to say when I sat in on an interview they did with Roger Harris, the business editor of the News Sentinel. (Happy to say that BHS engaged Moxley Carmichael to help with the groundbreaking and other public relations activities.)
Here are some of those comments:
- Cardboard box shipments are a bell weather of the economy. Since many products ship in cardboard boxes, when cardboard box production is up, it means more goods are being shipped.
- These huge corrugating rolls wear out and can be refurbished by BHS up to three times. Since they are so large — some as long as a football field when they are assembled — they cannot be shipped to Germany for repair. That’s why it is important that BHS has a presence that is near to most of its customers by interstate. BHS has more than 50 percent of the market and its main clients are in the northeast, southeast, Chicago, Dallas and Southern California.
- BHS’s work in maintenance for its customers is “growing as fast as we can find people to provide it,” said Greg Wolf, president of BHS Corrugated North America. That is why being close to Pellissippi State Community College is very important. “We have a definite void of people going into technical trades,” Wolf said. In Germany, according to Lars Engel, BHS’s managing director, who was here from Germany, the company has 100 apprentices in training to take permanent jobs. Similarly, in Charlotte, an apprentice program has students going to classes six months and working six months alternately to prepare for post-college careers. The men said they would be interested in teaming up with other companies in East Tennessee and with Pellissippi State to arrange a similar program here.
- Engel said the $5 million being spent on the Knox County plant is the single largest investment the company has made in North America. “It is a symbol that we have a firm commitment to North America,” he said.
- The new plant, which is expected to be up and running by mid-May, will have 30 percent more capacity than the Rutledge plant. Some of the current workers likely will take some of the 35 to 40 jobs at the new facility. But plans call for the addition of at least that many more jobs in the future. The plant being built today will be 35,500 square feet large, but it is designed so that it can be expanded to up to 80,000 square feet.
- BHS, founded in 1959 in Weiherhammer, Germany, today has 1,500 employees located in 26 countries. The Knox County location will be its North American headquarters.
The groundbreaking turned out to be a very festive occasion with dignitaries including Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr.; Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and County Commissioners R. Larry Smith, Ed Shouse and Jeff Ownby. Representatives from the Chamber, The Development Corporation, and the Industrial Development Board also were among the more than 50 folks gathered for bagels and coffee in the perfect morning weather.
Congressman Duncan told company officials that they will find Knox County to be a very good place to do business. “More than half the people I represent are people who have moved here,” Duncan said. “It is a community that has a lot of things that people like.”
Engel said he’s noticed that. “I’ve found here an environment where we were really welcomed,” he said. “I promise we will give that back to you.”
One of my favorite moments came when Mayor Burchett was explaining how to pronounce his name. “It’s Burchett,” he said. “Birch, like the tree. And ‘et’ like, ‘I just et at Wright’s Cafeteria.'” Ha.
Click here for Roger Harris’ story from the News Sentinel.
Click here for the Moxley Carmichael news release.
Click here for the Chamber’s news release.
Click here for the Chamber’s video coverage of the groundbreaking.
As someone who has to fret about outdoor events and weather pretty regularly, I had to laugh at your comment that it’s pretty hard to hold an indoor ground breaking.
I knew you would understand!