Kingsport Times-News: Activity expected to begin soon at RMC's Phipps Bend plant

Activity expected to begin soon at RMC's Phipps Bend plant

Jeff Bobo • Feb 28, 2019 at 7:00 PM

ROGERSVILLE — The former Phipps Bend Industrial Park spec building still looks exactly the way it did last May when it was announced that the property was being purchased by Canadian truck part manufacturer RMC Advance Technologies.

The Hawkins County Industrial Development Board learned Thursday, however, that’s about to change.

RMC reportedly recently signed a new major customer, and company officials were at Phipps Bend’s Tennessee College of Applied Technology campus last week meeting with another potential customer.

Hawkins County IDB Chairman Larry Elkins told the board Thursday that RMC will be back at Phipps Bend within the next week or two to finalize an agreement with its construction contractor for new additions to the 70,000-square-foot facility as the company prepares to begin production.

“They assured us that everything is moving along on their schedule,” Elkins said. “I’ve been asked by several people, ‘Where are they at?’ and ‘Why are they not doing something?’ It’s their building, it’s their business, and it’s their money. They are moving forward.”

Elkins added, “They would not let us announce their new customer, but they have signed on a brand new customer that they said would be known by everyone when it’s finally announced. They also met last week at the (Phipps Bend) T-CAT center with another prospective customer. They’re moving in at their speed.”

Elkins said RMC recently indicated the plant will be up and running by late fall.

“My understanding is that equipment has already been purchased, and it’s either on the way or here being stored,” Elkins added. “It’s been going on now for several months, and people are getting antsy and wondering why they’re not seeing any movement over there. I assure you, they didn’t buy it to sit on it.”

On May 16, 2018, RMC announced its purchase of the spec building, which was constructed by the IDB in 2009.

RMC and its parent company, SIGMA Industries Inc., will utilize robotics at its Phipps Bend plant to manufacture large body parts for just about every big rig on the interstates today.

The new plant is expected to employ 54 people and will become the company’s U.S. headquarters.

Shortly after Hawkins County completed the $1.3 million spec building in 2009, the national economic crisis hit, and industrial growth in the region dwindled to almost nothing. That building sat for sale for nearly a decade before being purchased by RMC last year.

SIGMA CEO Denis Bertrand stated during the May 16 press conference that the two main reasons he was attracted to Surgoinsville were proximity to his customer base and the fact that the community made him and his Canadian associates feel extremely welcome.

RMC’s main customers in this area are Volvo, Freightliner, Oshkosh, JLG, Peterbilt and Kenworth, which are within 150 miles of the Phipps Bend plant.

Bertrand said there’s tremendous opportunity for doing business with automobile, windmill and airplane manufacturers in the Southeast.

“It’s not just a plant we’re setting up. We’re really setting up the future of the U.S. company. This is why we’re bringing our headquarters to Surgoinsville. It will give us the opportunity also to bring in executives on that side within the next few years,” Bertrand said.


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