La. pursues truck manufacturer’s expansion

A Minnesota truck maker with a Chinese parent company plans a significant expansion, and Louisiana is among Southern states trying to win the new factory.

Schwing America CEO Brian Hazelton said he’d rather expand within his current area. But he says Louisiana, Texas and Georgia are among Southern states courting the factory.

Schwing America makes concrete pumper trucks. But parent Xuzhou Construction Machinery Group, which bought a majority stake in Schwing’s German parent company last year, also makes excavators, loaders, dozers and cranes.

Hazelton said XCMG sees Schwing as a bridge to making such vehicles in the United States.

With the XCMG partnership, there are significant opportunities for growth. It could be in the plant or it could be elsewhere, Hazelton said.

The expansion plans represent another chapter in a major turnaround for Schwing America, which emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010. Annual revenue, which plummeted from nearly $267 million in 2007 to around $60 million in 2009, reached nearly $90 million in 2012 and is expected to continue growing this year.

Company employment, which shrank from nearly 700 to less than 100 during the same time period, has risen to more than 250 in the past 18 months.

Hazelton expects the company’s expansion plans to firm up by the end of September.

Economic development officials in at least those three states are interested in winning a plant facility with hundreds of jobs and hundreds of thousands of square feet of factory space. Hazelton said Louisiana even sent an official to White Bear Township in recent weeks to personally make a pitch for the project, which might also include a research and development center.

“They’re being really aggressive with saying, ‘Why not do it here? Or why not do part of it here?’ ” he said.

Hazelton thinks regional economic development group Greater MSP has been helpful. But the Southern states are at a different level.

“People are jumping on planes. You see the difference in how those states understand it’s a business to go attract companies. I mean, Gov. (Rick Perry’s) office called from Texas. ‘Hey, what can we do? Can we get you down here? We have Caterpillar down here. Do you need a port?’ ” Hazelton said.

Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret declined to comment. Texas and Georgia officials could not be immediately reached.

“We want to keep them here. We like Schwing America,” White Bear Township clerk treasurer Bill Short said.

Short has heard the Schwing America’s expansion could be an initial 200,000 square feet on top of its present 350,000-square-foot facility.

Short disclosed an email that Greater MSP official Joel Akason sent to Hazelton in May, with Short and state economic development official Jim Gromberg included. It outlines a potential assistance package that would include up to $2.3 million from a township redevelopment district.

The state might also tap into the Minnesota Investment Fund and other programs, according to Akason’s email.

Minnesota economic development spokeswoman Madeline Koch said state officials hope Schwing decides to grow in Minnesota.

“We understand that these processes are very competitive and have made our case on why we think Minnesota is the best option,” said Koch.