Phipps Bend gets big win from regional marketing

Editorial Board • May 29, 2018 at 9:17 AM

It’s the real estate agents’ mantra: location, location, location. And that a $1.3 million investment nine years ago is finally paying off for Hawkins County has more to do with location than the 70,000-square-foot spec building that sits there.

Canadian manufacturer Sigma Industries said in March it was in final negotiations with a number of sites. That Hawkins County’s Phipps Bend Industrial Park won out is largely due to its proximity to Sigma’s American customer base as well as labor availability. But a $7 million investment and a new plant that will hire more than 50 is also a nod to regional marketing.

Sigma, which manufactures large composite components, has been searching for a U.S. point of entry into the American marketplace, which it already services from Canada. It chose Phipps Bend as its U.S. headquarters because it is “strategically located near several key customers in the U.S. who will benefit from the same processes, quality and service they already enjoy and recognize,” the company said. Those customers include Volvo, Freightliner, Oshkosh, JLG, Peterbilt and Kenworth.

“This expansion in the U.S. represents an important strategic milestone for us,” said Denis Bertrand, Sigma president. “It is the first step in our strategy to grow our operations in the U.S. market. In essence, it will allow us to better serve existing customers while providing us with the opportunity to grow our business in a market of significant size. Furthermore, we are proud to be in a position to serve our transit industry customers with Buy America compliant products.”

Sigma was founded just 13 years ago in Saint-Ephrem-de-Beauce, Quebec. For the first nine months of fiscal 2018, revenues were $43.3 million, up 10.7 percent from the first nine months of fiscal 2017. It produces and sells composite and metal components, offering products for the heavy-duty truck, coach, transit and bus, machinery, agriculture, and wind energy markets. It serves original equipment manufacturers and distributors in the U.S., Canada and Europe and announced last December that it signed a contract to manufacture components for the entire length of a new vehicle program estimated at between seven to 10 years.

The company will hire 54 employees here for a plant using robotics, which made its proximity to the Tennessee College of Applied Technology campus at Phipps Bend an added bonus. TCAT has a major robotics training program.

This wasn’t just an effort of the Hawkins County Industrial Development Board. Sigma also cited the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, the Tennessee Valley Authority, NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership, and Hawkins County and Surgoinsville officials for their assistance and support in convincing Sigma to locate here.

This success will contribute not just to Hawkins County’s economy, but the region’s. And it proves the worth of regional marketing and the need to focus on it.