Years dormant manufacturing sites will soon see new activity as companies, workers and equipment move into two Johnson City industrial buildings.
JD Squared Inc., a Johnson City-based maker of tubing benders and notchers aimed at mid-range hobbyists and small business owners, purchased the former Douglas Dynamics snow plow factory last month, planning to add plasma cutters to its product lines with the expansion to the 192,000-square-foot industrial building.
The company paid $1.1 million for the property at 915 Riverview Drive on the east edge of Johnson City near Watauga.
JD Squared Vice President Kimberly Hughes said Wednesday the company plans to retain its existing building and operations at 2244 Eddie Williams Road, not far from the expansion site.
“We have a couple of new products coming out, so we’re needing a bigger facility,” Hughes said. “Right now, we’re working on two new lines with more ideas and plans in the works.”
JD Squared will retain its current 28 employees and could bring its total workforce up to 50 over the next three years.
Because the company designs the machinery it sells in-house, Hughes said those new hires will likely be a mix of manufacturing and engineering jobs.
The 40-year-old Douglas facility has been empty since 2010 when the Milwaukee-based plow company consolidated manufacturing operations to other facilities, and was said to have fallen into disrepair in the intervening years, but Hughes said the repairs needed were mostly cosmetic.
“Hopefully, we’ll have everything finished there by December, and we’re slowly going to be shifting over there,” she said. “A lot of it’s going to be fixing up the offices.”
JD Squared is still working through the approval process for economic incentives from local municipalities and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
The second company, Leisure Products Inc., will be new to Johnson City, but not the Tri-Cities.
Currently located on Fordtown Road outside Kingsport, LPI President Dave Hatley said Wednesday the company’s lease expired this year and the current facility was too small to meet its needs, leading to the $1.3 million purchase of the former Bosch brake component production plant.
“We’ve been at full capacity in Kingsport for years,” he said. “Johnson City is a place we’ve always had our eye on, and things just came together for us at the right time.”
The company manufactures, wholesales and retails tanning beds, spa tubs, sauna components and other products and recently purchased a Kentucky manufacturer of whirlpool bathtubs, necessitating the larger digs.
With the sale finalized, Hatley said LPI will move its existing 115 jobs to Johnson City and expects to add 60 new positions in the first year. Eventually, the company aims to build up to 275 employees.
The company will also bring its global headquarters to the 300,000-square-foot mixed manufacturing and office space, a move Hatley said should be completed by Nov. 1.
LPI will also receive economic incentives for the millions of dollars of investment and jobs the expansion expects to bring.
Hatley said the TVA has agreed to reduce the utility rates for the company for a set time and Johnson City is expected to soon finalize a payment in lieu of taxes agreement.
Mitch Miller, CEO of the Washington County Economic Development Council, said the purchases were definitely a win for the area, but said they underscore the need for more large-scale manufacturing sites in the county.
“It’s great to get these investments and jobs in Johnson City,” he said. “But we are running out of facilities bigger than 100,000 square feet to market to bring jobs into the area.”
Warning that the local offerings were dwindling, Miller has been advocating a new industrial park in Gray that he said could lure new investment and jobs to benefit Washington County.
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