published Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Tullahoma industries shift to Winchester

Scott Knickerbocker, left, and Luis Ramirez drill mounting holes in a piece of equipment called a "fiberglass chopper gun" at Phoenix Bass Boats' new facilities in Franklin County, Tenn., on Tuesday. The company moved from Coffee County, Tenn., for more manufacturing space.
Scott Knickerbocker, left, and Luis Ramirez drill mounting holes in a piece of equipment called a "fiberglass chopper gun" at Phoenix Bass Boats' new facilities in Franklin County, Tenn., on Tuesday. The company moved from Coffee County, Tenn., for more manufacturing space.
Photo by Ben Benton.
  • photo
    Jose Aguilar and Jose Gonzalez, from left, remove a protect plastic coating from a boat hull mold at Phoenix Bass Boats' new facilities in Franklin County, Tenn., on Tuesday. The company moved from Coffee County, Tenn., for more manufacturing space.
    Photo by Ben Benton.
    enlarge photo

WINCHESTER, Tenn. — Franklin County this summer gained two industries from neighboring Coffee County in an industrial shuffle prompted by growth and facility needs, officials say.

Franklin County Mayor Richard Stewart said moves by Phoenix Bass Boats and Active Burgess Tennessee Inc. weren't expected or sought. But the two industries moving from the Tullahoma and Coffee County Joint industrial parks are welcome additions on the south side of the county line, he said.

"It comes down to the simple fact that we had two buildings that they needed, and they were empty," Stewart said this week. "Phoenix Bass Boats was going to have to expand, and they needed to be able to produce more boats."

Active Burgess sought a facility to replace the space it will vacate to make room for the company's landlord, Fischer Tool & Die Corp., to expand, Stewart said.

Active Burgess is just taking the first steps in a southward move "to a building of their own," he said.

"It's a unique situation. It's interesting and very exciting," Stewart said, noting that most of Phoenix's and Active Burgess' workers won't have to drive much farther to work than before.

Phoenix Bass Boats President Gary Clause said growth has pressed the operation for space.

"We've just outgrown where we're at," he said. "We've had to do quite a bit of work to it to build it on out."

Once improvements are made and operations are running, Clause said, the company will be able to build 1,000 boats a year, a more than 50 percent increase in production capacity.

"Our company has really taken off in the past five years," he said.

With larger manufacturing capacity, the company also likely will double its workforce of 40 in the next 12 to 18 months, Clause said.

"We hope to be back in production next week," he said.

Active Burgess Vice President Greg Cornett said the plastic mold-making company entered a lease with Fischer Tool & Die three years ago just as both companies began growing.

Canada-based Active Burgess makes molds for automakers such as Nissan, VW, Honda, Ford, Chevrolet, Kia and other parts manufacturers, he said.

"In three years, we've picked up and gotten busy," he said. "Now, they'd love to have their space back and we'd love to have more space."

After searching the region, Active Burgess officials found a building in Winchester, Cornett said.

Cornett said he hoped work to install a 30-ton crane would be done by the week of Sept. 10, followed by moving the company's larger pieces of equipment.

"Our lease is up here in October," Cornett said of Active Burgess' present home. "We'll probably get out a little bit early."

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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