KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Cobalt Yachts has acquired a 375,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Vonore, Tenn., which is fast becoming a recreational boating industry center.
After determining that the expansion of Cobalt into yacht manufacture was not feasible at the company's long-time location in Neodesha, Kansas, the search for a suitable manufacturing site turned quickly to the southeastern United States, to the Carolinas, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, according to a recent statement from the company.
"Our evaluation process was both detailed and comprehensive," said Constantinos (Cos) Constantinou, Cobalt Yachts president, "and we were pleased with the availability of potential facilities, as well as with the skill and the exceptional work ethic of the labor force in the Vonore area. Tennessee state and local officials could not have been more accommodating or more gracious in helping us find the ideal location for our new plant. Further, we look on the proximity of large and prestigious educational and research institutions to be of particular benefit to our endeavors there."
The location is within what’s known as the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley, a 16-county economic development area in the process of becoming a nationally-recognized recreational boat building center.
Cobalt Yachts’ new facility is within the Tellico West Industrial Park, which is already home to boat builders Sea Ray Boats, Mastercraft Boats, Tennessee Watercraft and several boat supply companies.
"The Cobalt decision is a further indication that we're serious players in the boating industry," said Monroe County Mayor Allan Watson. "The workforce is here, we're located within easy reach of 75 percent of the nation's population, industries can rely on TVA power and we have the lake system. All of these factors make this site uniquely well suited."
Cobalt Yachts expects to be at full production within four years. The division will employ about 350 workers and produce 200 yachts per year.
Facility ready for use
The facility is configured in such a way that it will adapt immediately to its manufacturing processes, according to Cobalt Yachts.
The building, formerly used by Panasonic in the fabrication of refrigeration compressors and electronic componentry, is fully climate-controlled and equipped with dedicated engineering offices and multiple testing laboratories. Cobalt Yachts has also acquired an adjacent 12-acre property with all-important waterfront access to Tellico Lake, making possible on-site functional testing of all new yachts manufactured at the site.
"We would have been hard pressed to design a new building more compatible with our needs," said Pack St. Clair, Cobalt’s founder and chairman. "We had decided early in our thinking that the purchase of an existing facility would accelerate start-up for Cobalt Yachts, and we're thrilled to have found such an outstanding site."
Adaptation of the new building to yacht manufacture has already begun, as has the recruitment of new associates for positions in all functional areas of management, production, engineering and administration, according to the company.
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