by Susan Newby
Brazil’s largest tile manufacturer is coming to Putnam County, establishing its first American production facility and headquarters in Baxter, with ground-breaking ceremonies slated for the spring of 2020.
Portobello America, Inc. will invest some $150 million to locate its U.S. headquarters and production facility in Baxter at the Tennessee Motor Speedway site with construction slated to be completed by 2021.
Expected to hire around 220 employees within five years, Portobello’s hiring will be done in five phases that will accrue with the company’s abatement.
According to Cookeville Industrial Development Board attorney David Ledbetter, Portobello will hire 100 employees by the end of its first abatement year; have a total of 145 by the end of the third abatement year, and around 213 (expected full employment) by the end of the fifth abatement year.
Putnam County’s Industrial Development Board signed a PILOT agreement for a $150 million capital investment project for Portobello, previously referred to as “Project Sim.”
The PILOT offer includes 10 years of tax abatement and five years at 50 percent. Personal property will be abated for five years, and starting in the sixth year, Portobello would pay 50 percent, with that increasing to 60 percent in the seventh year.
The average hourly wage of all Portobello employees at the Baxter facility will be $21, according to Cookeville Mayor Randy Porter.
With Baxter’s estimated population of 1,400 residents, it is expected Portobello will hire both within and outside the city.
“I think they will hire whoever has the necessary experience and training to work at a ceramic company,” said Baxter Mayor John Martin. “I don’t know what those specific skills are, but I’m sure they’d be willing to hire whoever has the skills, whether they are local or from somewhere else.”
The building project is expected to be completed in four phases, due to the acquisition and installation of specialized equipment. The production process for Portobello requires kilns, conveyor belts, tanks, an atomizer, electronic equipment and other pieces of manufacturing equipment
The decision to locate in Baxter resulted after 18 months of discussions between company officials and state and local economic representatives.
“Growing and developing in the American market, incorporating the local culture, generating job opportunities and investments through an integrated business model, from production to partnership with distributors, is what guides this new challenge,” said Portobello President Cesar Gomez, Jr., in making the announcement.
“We are proud to present Portobello America. We believe in the strategy, the market potential and, above all, the combination of our knowledge with the American team and culture,” he added.
According to Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe, there are currently 13 Brazilian companies located in the state, employing approximately 2,000 Tennesseans.
Portobello serves countries on five continents and international markets through multi-brand retailers, the Portobello Shop franchise and sales channel for engineering. It has 2,600 employees responsible for the design and innovation of items that launch trends in architecture and interior design in Brazil.