Votes To Approve
BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
Huf-Tennessee will bring nearly 200 jobs to Greeneville with the company's new expansion rather than the originally-projected 100, Greene County Partnership President and CEO Tom Ferguson announced on Monday.
Appearing before the Greene County Commission, Ferguson said that Huf officials told him about a month ago that their $20 million expansion would bring another 60 jobs above the 100 they had anticipated.
Then, in paperwork filed with the state, Huf said last week that the company would be shifting another 28 corporate jobs from its Wisconsin location to Greeneville.
"The job count is up," Ferguson told the commission. "I think it's going to add hundreds of jobs in the future, based on what we're seeing already."
On Monday, the commission voted to suspend the rules to approve items for the company that were not originally on their agenda.
These included a $250,000 grant from the Tennessee Economic and Community Development FastTrack Program.
Ferguson explained that $200,000 of these funds would aid the company in transferring equipment from Wisconsin.
The state added the remaining $50,000 to the grant after the company discovered just two weeks ago that the 8-inch water line to its building would need an upgrade to 10 inches to support Huf's new sprinkler system.
Original cost projections put this unexpected project at $100,000 to run a new line directly from the 12-inch line along U.S. 11E to Huf. That action would take the company off the water line loop for the Mt. Pleasant Industrial Park and thereby aid other companies, Ferguson said.
Huf is located in the Industrial Park, at 395 T. Elmer Cox Drive.
While the cost estimate has since been adjusted slightly downward, the state did not approve the company's original proposal for an $80,000 grant with its $20,000 match.
Instead, the $50,000 grant, together with the company's $20,000 match, leaves a $30,000 gap, Ferguson said.
He asked the commission to help fill that gap with a $7,500 contribution from the county's General Fund savings.
This dwindling fund was the source of considerable financial struggle in the 2013-2014 budget process, but Ferguson said he would request the remainder of the needed funds from Old Knox Utility District, the Town of Greeneville and the Greene County Foundation, respectively.
"With an 11.6 percent unemployment rate, $7,500 from us is kind of a no-brainer, isn't it?" Commissioner Jimmy Sams said during caucus discussions.
The commission voted to approve the transfer of the state grant by a vote of 19 yes, with Commissioners Fred Malone and Rennie Hopson abstaining .
Commissioners then voted 19 yes, with Hopson voting no and Malone abstaining, to approve the $7,500 contribution.
Huf designs, develops and manufactures mechanical and electronic key systems, lock sets, steering locks and remote-control systems for the automotive industry.
Currently, the plant produces automotive door handles and remote keys for some top brands such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
The expansion will allow the local plant to conduct plastic-injection molding and painting of these handles on site.
The plant opened in 1995. There are currently 150 employees.
Huf-Tennessee is one of several plants that compose Huf-North America, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Huf Hülsbeck & Fürst GmbH & Co. KG, headquartered in Velbert, Germany.
The original expansion was already particularly notable because of the company's intention announced just two years ago to close the Greeneville plant in connection with a shift to Mexico.
Local employees rallied in favor of keeping the plant open, however, and a new contract allowed the company to re-achieve financial viability for the plant.