Memphis-area dignitaries received a sneak peek Tuesday of a sprawling new Electrolux factory that is expected begin producing ovens and ranges for consumers' kitchens starting in May.
Jack Truong, president and CEO of Electrolux Major Appliances North America, led about 100 people on Tuesday's tour of the nearly completed 750,000-square-foot plant in Memphis. At top production, the plant is expected to make 600,000 Electrolux and Frigidaire ovens and ranges that will be sold by dealers and national retailers.
The $266 million plant features sprawling rooms where steel is bent into the shapes of ovens and ranges and robots assemble the appliances. One room is used to test up to 380 products at a time.
Truong said the company was on schedule to have the first products roll off the production line in May. Groundbreaking at an industrial park in southeast Memphis was about 15 months ago.
At the groundbreaking, Truong said the company chose Memphis over other cities partly because of its proximity to the company's cooking appliances plant in Springfield and Memphis' role as a transportation hub.
"This site is now the home of world-class manufacturing of premium cooking products," Truong said before Tuesday's tour.
The plant is the result of teamwork between the public and private sector. Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell worked together to bring the Swedish appliance maker to the area, helping secure $150 million in tax incentives in the process. Both were on the tour.
The deal has been criticized by workers' unions and politicians who say the tax breaks are too high, especially as the city manages a tight budget. Other companies also are receiving tax breaks in return for building new plants in Shelby County.
The trade-off for the tax incentives is job creation, and the possibility of luring other large companies to the area. The Memphis plant has already hired 90 employees and will hire approximately 160 more between now and May.
The eventually employ 1,200 people as it reaches full production. Another 3,600 jobs are expected to be created by suppliers who will support the plant.
"The ripple effect of this plant located right here will be shown throughout our entire city and county and this region," Wharton said.
The tour also was attended by Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, state Sen. Mark Norris, and state Reps. G.A. Hardaway and Larry Miller.
Truong said $76 million of the $87 million construction expenditure went to local companies.