Semi-trailer manufacturing plant bringing 400 jobs to Dade County

Peter Cervelli, executive director for the Dade County Industrial Development Authority.

Charlie Mudd is happy to take orders from trucking companies that want to buy new semi-trailers to pull behind their big rigs.

Buyers have to be patient, though. There's already a year's worth of orders for the big, boxy trailers built at the Vanguard National Trailer Corp. plant in Monon, Ind., where Mudd is president and CEO.

"I'd have to tell them we'd build it next September," Mudd said.

That backlog of orders is one reason why Vanguard chose to build a new assembly plant in Trenton, Ga., in the recently expanded Dade County Industrial Park.

photo Location of Vanguard National Trailer Corp. plant planned for Trenton, Gs.

Earth-moving will begin this week for the 350,000-square-foot, $30 million manufacturing plant that eventually will employ 400 people and crank out 10,000 semi-trailers annually.

State and local officials hailed the news that the new factory will be built in Trenton. It's going in behind the vacant Shaw Industries' spun-yarn plant that closed in 2008, stinging the county with the loss of 440 jobs.

"Took a long time, but we're happy," said Peter Cervelli, executive director of the Dade County Industrial Development Authority, which owns the industrial park.

The Vanguard jobs will pay $10 an hour to start, Cervelli said. Mudd declined to discuss specifics about workers' pay.

"Our research was to verify that we could have a similar pay scale to our pay scale in Indiana," Mudd said.

Vanguard is eligible for job-tax credits, a port tax credit for new companies that increase imports or exports through a Georgia port, a sales-tax exemption on equipment and energy used in manufacturing, and a state EDGE grant of $800,000 that will be awarded through the Dade County Industrial Development Authority, said Stefanie Paupeck Harper, director of communications for the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

The state also will offer training to Vanguard's workers, Harper said, through its Quick Start Workforce Training Program.

Mudd said Vanguard considered locations in Tennessee, Alabama and in other Georgia counties before settling on Trenton.

"The Dade County group worked really hard to help us and assure us this was the right place to be," said Mudd, who called Cervelli a "hard-working guy."

The new factory will be built on a "greenfield" - fallow land that has nothing to be demolished - with about 150 developable acres on 250 acres of farmland once owned by former Chattanooga Mayor P.R. "Rudy" Olgiati.

"It's a big victory for Dade County," said state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, who also is executive director of the Northwest Georgia Joint Development Authority The organization markets Northwest Georgia to businesses.

A Norfolk-Southern Railway line serves the industrial park, but Vanguard doesn't plan to use it.

"They don't need rail, everything will be trucked," Dade County Executive Ted Rumley said. The plant will add "100 plus trucks a day" to the county's roads, Rumley said.

Rumley isn't worried about the impact of the additional truck traffic, since he said the Georgia Department of Transportation is "working with us. They're going to help us [improve roads]."

"It's a good thing. It's a win-win," Rumley said of the Vanguard plant.

The Trenton semi-trailer factory won't be up and running until July of next year, Mudd said, and Vanguard won't start hiring until next spring. Workers mainly will bolt and rivet the trailers together in the assembly plant, he said. Only a little of the work will involve welding and painting.

Employees at the Indiana plant work four 10-hour shifts from Monday through Thursday, with two mandatory overtime shifts per month on Friday.

photo Peter Cervelli, executive director for the Dade County Industrial Development Authority.

"I believe firmly that people need to have a life, so I refuse to schedule any more than that," Mudd said.

Monon is a city of about 1,762 residents in farming country midway between Indianapolis and Chicago.

Vanguard is a subsidiary of China International Marine Containers, the world's leading manufacturer of "dry" and refrigerated trailer equipment. CIMC operates more than 100 subsidiaries, according to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal's office, with 47,000 employees in North America, China, Europe, Asia and Australia.

It's not the first Chinese-owned company to move to the area.

Yangfeng USA Automotive Trim Systems, an auto supplier partly owned by a Chinese company, plans to open a plant on Bonnyshire Drive near Volkswagen's Chattanooga assembly plant that will create more than 300 jobs. And Innovate Manufacturing Inc., a Chinese company that will specialize in injection molding, plans to open a location in Knoxville.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at or or or 423-757-6651.