The story of how Airstream came to Jackson Center, Ohio has long been the thing of legend. It involves a road trip through the midwest by Airstream founder Wally Byam and his friend Cornelius Vanderbilt, an injured foot, and an abandoned bazooka factory. It was 1952 and Wally needed a more centralized manufacturing and distribution point. The rest is Airstream – and Ohio – history.
Sixty-six years later, the company broke ground on new 750,000-square foot facility on the eastern outskirts of town. A ceremony took place on Friday, August 2, 2018 with officials from Jackson Center, Shelby County Ohio, Jobs Ohio, and Airstream associates.
Airstream President and CEO Bob Wheeler called it an historic occasion, and yet another example of how Airstream and Jackson Center have worked together over the years.
“Simply put, there’s no place else in the nation where we could find the work force, the village, the county or the state to support our continued growth,” Wheeler said of Jackson Center, where every Airstream product has been manufactured since the company shuttered operations in California in 1978.
The planned $40 million plant will give Airstream associates more space, more tools, and more storage, prioritizing the quality and craftsmanship that is the hallmark of Airstream travel trailers and touring coaches. The current 225,000-square foot travel trailer plant will become the new home of Airstream’s touring coach manufacturing line, freeing up more space for innovative products like Basecamp and Nest.
Ohio has long had a dedication to the manufacturing industry. Mike Dodds, former Executive Director of the Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership, pointed to Airstream as one of the main reasons why Shelby County has the highest percentage of people working in manufacturing.
“They say manufacturing is dying,” Dodds joked. It’s not dying in Shelby County.”
The expansion will create upwards of 300 jobs and free up space across Airstream’s current facilities, allowing for more innovation as Airstream looks to the future. It will also include a Heritage Center that will showcase vintage Airstream units and highlight Airstream’s role as one of Ohio’s most iconic brands.
“This kind of commitment to a state is rarely seen,” said Jonathan Bridges, Director of JobsOhio, of Airstream’s choice to expand operations in Ohio. Also on hand for the ceremony were Dawn Eilert, Vice President of Sidney-Shelby County Chamber of Commerce, Jackson Center Mayor Scott Klopfenstein, and Airstream Senior Vice President Mark Wahl.