published Thursday, October 20th, 2011

New plant awaits loan from Crossville

A Swedish company hopes to open an $8 million, 500-employee factory in Crossville, Tenn., and is taking job applications for its first foray into American manufacturing.

BekZon, an air purification system manufacturer, plans immediately to bring between 40 and 50 jobs to Crossville pending approval of a $300,000 loan from the city. As the business ramps up to full capacity over the next three years, BekZon plans to bring a total of 500 jobs to the area.

Crossville had a 10.5 percent unemployment rate in August, the most recent state figures available. The national rate sat at 9.1 percent that same month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"We sure do want them here; it's just the age-old question. How far do we need to go, and how far can we go?" said Crossville Mayor J.H. Graham III. "It's a real tough decision for small local government officials."

Graham said the $300,000 loan would come from a city revolving fund used to attract businesses. Crossville officials put money into the fund every year and save up for such an occasion. Right now, the fund contains about $500,000.

BekZon also is looking for a loan from the Tennessee Valley Authority for $3 million for equipment. The company plans to ask various county, state and federal agencies for an additional $3.5 million for land and building purchases, according to Marco Martinez, chief financial officer of BekZon's American division.

TVA officials declined to comment on the potential for the loan. The utility funds some state business recruiting.

If BekZon wins the loans, Martinez expects the company to move quickly. The company has $300 million worth of units preordered over the next five years, he said. The purifiers, which attach to heating and air conditioning units, are already used in Nevada casinos, California airports and in countries such as Russia, China and Italy.

Martinez said he expects the United States quickly to become one of BekZon's largest markets.

"Things have gone really smoothly," he said. "There's a lot of demand here. People are air quality conscious."

Over the next year, the company hopes to buy a 50,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. As officials go through the necessary steps to start up a factory, they plan a small-scale production facility in the county's business incubator.

"That building is one of the key reasons for enticing BekZon to come," Martinez said. "It's such a big head start."

The company already received about 55 applications for its start-up facility and expects to get several more as it prepares to open.

"There's a pool of workers here," Martinez said. "Hiring and getting talented people is not a problem."

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