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This story was updated at 5:01 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018.

Brazil's biggest ceramic tile maker will build a $150 million production plant in Baxter, Tennessee just east of Cookeville, in the biggest manufacturing investment ever in Putnam County.

Portobello America Inc., announced this week it will locate its first U.S. plant and its American headquarters in Baxter and create 220 jobs by 2021 when the new facility is expected to begin production.

Portobello manufactures and distributes more than 250 million square feet of ceramic tile each year to 60 countries through its own Portobello Shop franchise locations and other multi-brand retailers. Portobello currently has more than 2,600 employees working in the design and production of a variety of tiles in Brazil.

"Growing and developing in the American market, incorporating the local culture, generating job opportunities and investments through an integrated business model, from production to partnership with distributors, is what guides this new challenge," Portobello President Cesar Gomes Jr. said in a statement. "We believe in the strategy, the market potential and, above all, the combination of our know-how with the American team and culture."

Portobello will locate its new operations on the former Cookeville Speedway, formerly known as the Tennessee Motor Speedway site.

An investment group bought the 35-plus-acre abandoned speedway and dirt track in 2015 for $492,000 during a public auction. The 3/8 mile clay oval along Interstate 40 had sat idle for a decade before the track was sold. But during the 1990's and early 2000's, the track hosted events sanctioned by the Southern All Stars Dirt Racing Series and the Tennessee Thunder DirtCar Series.

Portobello joins 13 other Brazilian companies now operating in Tennessee, which collectively have more than 2,000 employees.

"Tennessee places a major emphasis on foreign direct investment and Brazilian companies have been a great investment partners in Tennessee," said Bob Rolfe, commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

Tennessee has nearly 1, 000 foreign-based businesses that collectively have invested more than $35 billion and employ more than 135,000 workers in the state, according to the Department of Economic and Community Development.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340

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