Lifetime Products opened its new manufacturing plant today in Eastbridge Business Park. On hand were Gov. Bill Haslam, Mayor Tim Burchett and some 250 business and political leaders. The opening was a big win for the Knoxville Chamber and will bring 500 new jobs to the county when built out.
“Jobs don’t get created by people like us (politicians),” said Haslam, “but by putting capital at risk.” The Lifetime Products folks invested $115 million in the Eastbridge plant, he said.
Company founders Barry and Susan Mower were present, but did not speak. Barry Mower hired current president Richard Hendrickson in 1988 as a welder. After dignitaries fumbled with his name, BUR-chett said, “You’ve built the largest plant in Knox County. You can call me anything.”
Lifetime manufactures blow-molded plastic products including kayaks, canoes, tables, chairs and basketball goals. The factory contains 720,000 square feet — the equivalent of 12 football fields or 150 basketball courts. It has 16 acres under roof and another 60 acres for parking and expansion. It has rail service on-site.
Hendrickson cited three factors in choosing Knox County: ease of access to East Coast customers, cost-effective, dependable utilities and the quality of the workforce.
A major customer is Walmart and Sam’s Club, represented by Scott Gutche. “We love selling their products in our stores. When jobs are created in local communities that we serve, our business grows.” Gutche said 85 percent of Walmart customers say it matters that products are made in the USA.