While northern Indiana remains the hub of the recreational park trailer or “park model” industry, another manufacturing center is emerging in southern Georgia.
According to the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA), during the past four to five years five park model companies have set up manufacturing facilities across southern Georgia, employing hundreds of workers who lost their jobs with the decline of the area’s manufactured housing business.
Companies with operations in the region include:
* Custom Park Homes: Based in Quitman, Ga., the company started with eight employees in 2002 and based on increased demand has tripled its workforce to 25 employees.
* Fortress Manufacturing LLC: The Thomasville, Ga.-based company started building park models in 2003. It currently employs 12, but recently moved operations to a 25,000-square foot plant and plans to boost its work force to 50 by mid-March.
* Park Cabins Inc.: The Cairo, Ga.-based company recently moved from a 12,000-squar-foot facility to a 40,000-square-foot plant and plans to double its work force to 40 or 50 employees this year.
* Stewart Park Homes Inc.: Founded in January of 2002, the Thomasville, Ga.-based company recently announced plans to double its work force to 150, making it the 10th largest employer in the Thomasville area.
* SunLake Living Systems LLC: Founded in June of 2000, the Sylvester, Ga.-based company has grown from 10 to 20 employees and is currently experiencing record demand for its park model products.
When the latest round of hiring is completed, southern Georgia’s park model builders will have a combined work force of nearly 300 employees, or roughly 40% of the total park model workers in northern Indiana, where 15 manufacturers are headquartered.
“Southern Georgia is definitely evolving into hub of park model manufacturing,” said William Garpow, executive director of Newnan, Ga.-based RPTIA. “From a cost perspective, it’s very affordable to hire people in rural southern Georgia.”
He added that the downturn in the manufactured housing business has left behind thousands of well-trained people and empty production centers that can easily be converted to construct park model units.
He said the other advantage is that the Georgia-built units are close to the southeastern coastal zone market and with transporting fees at nearly $2 per mile, the savings are substantial.