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Country Coach Inc., Junction City, Ore., continues to negotiate with local officials about a proposed expansion which would allow the motorhome maker to build a new state-of-the-art facility on 74 acres adjacent to its current facility.
According to a report in the Register Guard, Country Coach executives are frustrated by a situation they say has limited their growth and locked them into an inefficient production set-up. Before the company can build, it needs to convince Lane County commissioners to extend the city’s urban growth boundary to accommodate the project.
Country Coach currently produces its motor coaches in a sprawling complex of buildings scattered over some eight city blocks, most of which sit on land the company doesn’t own.
It’s not an efficient way to manufacture RVs or to do business, Country Coach officials say.
“We have demand for our product in the marketplace that outstrips our ability to supply it,” spokesman Matt Howard said. “We have manufacturing practices that can be improved in terms of efficiency and quality with upgraded facilities. And we want to make sure we have a good foundation for future growth in an area where we have 33 years of history.”
In some ways, the current problems are rooted in the company’s history. It started very small and then went through a rapid expansion.
When Bob Lee founded the company in 1973, it had only two employees, who built pickup truck campers in a 2,000-square-foot building.
In 1994, Country Coach had 325 workers. By 1998, two years after it was bought by Perris, Calif.-based National R.V. Holdings Inc., it had 900. By 2000, it had grown to 1000 employees; today, it has 1,600 workers and is one of Lane County’s largest employers.
But the company, as it grew, expanded into relatively small, and separated, pieces of land. Today, there is no room for the company to expand further on those parcels.
The factory, which builds about 16 motor coaches a week, has a backlog of orders on each of its four assembly lines, Howard said. The company would like to add new dealers, but rarely does so because it can’t build enough RVs to meet the demand, he said.
Most of that manufacturing space – about 325,000 square feet – is on ground the company leases from Lee Joint Ventures Inc., a company controlled by Lee, the company founder.
It’s not just a question of space, company officials say, but also an inefficient production line that has vehicles, and parts of vehicles, moving back and forth and back again between different buildings. And it’s also a case of being locked into property that the company doesn’t own, and thus doesn’t want to invest in.
“We have a dire need to improve” the quality of facilities, Howard said, but the company is reluctant to pour money into facilities that it only rents. “We want to invest in property we own.”