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Waco becoming haven for trailer companies

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Wisconsin-based Stoughton Trailers plans to start production later this year at a new facility under construction on Jewell Drive.

Waco’s new theme song may borrow a line from country crooner Roger Miller, whose hit “King of the Road” opens with the words “Trailer for sale or rent.”

Two companies will bring their trailer-building acts to Waco, hiring about 170 between them. One, Alcom LLC, will fill the former Manitou building on Imperial Drive that went vacant in 2020, eliminating about 150 jobs.

The other, Wisconsin-based Stoughton Trailers, plans to start making chassis used to haul shipping containers later this year, having acquired land on Jewell Drive. Waco real estate agent Gregg Glime brokered the sale, and said plant construction has started.

The facility will employ about 125 and is expected to start production in just a few months, according to a company press release.

“The new Waco facility and Stoughton production line will help fulfill our customer production commitments for 2022 and beyond,” President and CEO Bob Wahlin said in the press release. “By the end of 2022, the company will have invested $25 million expanding our chassis production capacity. These investments would not have been possible without the remedial relief provided by the antidumping and countervailing duty orders on chassis from China.”

Stoughton also installed a second chassis production line at its facility in Wisconsin., a trade magazine covering the transportation industry, reported the U.S. Department of Commerce last year levied $221 million in duties on several Chinese companies found to have marketed trailers in the United States at prices below cost, a tactic known as dumping.

The magazine said the department took action following an investigation by the International Trade Council that U.S. manufacturers had been “materially injured.” It said China faces triple-digit duties the next five years.

With Waco online and additional capacity in Wisconsin, Stoughton should be making chassis at a rate of 20,000 to 25,000 per year by September.

The Waco location gives Stoughton easy access to seaports, railyards and customers in the southern United States, according to the press release.

Stoughton, which is family owned, designs, manufacturers and markets semi-trailers for over-the-road and agricultural use.

Not far away from the location of Stoughton’s new facility, Alcom LLC, which produces lines of aluminum trailers sold throughout the United States and in China, India and Kuwait, has signed a lease on the former Manitou building at 6401 Imperial Drive. There it will employ about 45 people, said Glime, who brokered the deal with colleague Bland Cromwell.

Alcom officials could not be reached for comment Friday.

Alcom LLC dates to 2006 and has grown to include manufacturing facilities in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Bonner, Montana; Winslow, Maine; Deland, Florida; and now Waco. A timeline on its website shows it launched the E-Z Hauler line in 2006, introduced an all-aluminum livestock trailer chassis in 2015, and once bought an ice rink in Maine that became a welding shop.

It entered into an agreement with Polaris Industries to produce trailers under the Polaris and Victory brands, according to that timeline.

Aspen Custom Trailers has opened its 58,000-square-foot plant on Texas Central Parkway. The company based in Alberta, Canada, announced in 2020 it had chosen Waco for its first greenfield operation in the United States.

Aspen said it would employ 80 within a few years.

Though not in the trailer business, Emerald Transformer announced this week it will place a factory on five acres at 5652 North State Highway 6.

“Emerald Transformer is very excited to be expanding our presence in Texas energy market,” CEO Stuart Prior said in a press release. “This will give us an opportunity to better serve our large customer base from a central location within the state. Adding Texas manufacturing capabilities to our national footprint will strengthen our position as the industry leader in the transformer services sector.”

Emerald is based in McKinney, with eight locations around the country.

The company initially will need 50 to 75 employees for its Waco operation, which will focus on repairing and servicing transformers in the Texas market.

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