Flex-N-Gate

The inside of a Flex-N-Gate facility where the company produces automotive original equipment. One of these is in Rockford, where Flex-N-Gate plans to add 91 new jobs.

Flex-N-Gate in Rockford will grow its workforce by 91 new jobs, Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe announced in a Tuesday news release.

The company is investing $5.5 million to upgrade and expand its 2460 Stock Creek Blvd. manufacturing facility and increase production in lighting materials, according to the release.

Blount County Partnership Communications Director Jeff Muir said the company wasn’t expanding onto land owned by the Blount County Industrial Development Board even though there are several acres of land owned by that board adjacent to the Flex-N-Gate facility.

Muir said the company was buying a next-door building.

An automotive original equipment manufacturer supplier, the company specializes in manufacturing plastic, metal, lighting and mechanical assemblies.

The company currently employs 185 people at the Rockford location and 23,000 throughout the world, the release states.

“Supporting the companies in our automotive sector is key to the success and growth of Tennessee’s economy,” Lee said. “I’m pleased to have Flex-N-Gate expand its Rockford operations, and I thank them for creating over 90 new jobs in Blount County.”

Rockford Mayor Carl Koella echoed those sentiments on a local level in a phone interview Tuesday.

“We’re always pleased to see businesses expand, especially good corporate neighbors,” Koella said.

The company came to Rockford in 2015, though the building has existed since 1997, according to property records, and used for multiple businesses before Flex-N-Gate bought it, Muir said.

Rolfe noted in the statement that Tennessee currently is home to more than 900 automotive suppliers.

“Since last year we have seen more than $2.3 billion invested in the automotive sector,” Rolfe said. “At TNECD, we are focused on doing all that we can to support these companies so that when they are looking to grow, Tennessee is the clear choice.”

Flex-N-Gate Executive Vice President of Metals and Procurement Bill Beistline thanked the state and the county for the opportunity to grow.

“Flex-N-Gate looks forward to continued growth and job creation in partnership with TNECD and Blount County,” he said.

The move also garnered praise from Blount-based state legislators Rep. Jerome Moon and Sen. Art Swann as well as the Tennessee Valley Authority Senior Vice President John Bradley. TVA, through Maryville Electric Department, provides power to the facility.

Word of nearly 100 new Blount County jobs comes as the U.S. faces labor shortages in many sectors.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on June 8 that, on the nation’s final business day of April, “the number of job openings reached a (historical) high of 9.3 million.”

Nationally and locally, companies are facing existential questions regarding workers, pay scale and the future of businesses, regardless of size.

Unemployment in Blount is back to pre-pandemic levels, however. Whereas county unemployment levels spiked to 14.4% in April 2020 — typical for most of the state at that point — they’re now back to 3.8%.

That’s lower than Sevier County — 4.0% — but higher than Knox County — 3.5%, according to Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development data.

Flex-N-Gate has facilities in several countries but is headquartered in Urbana, Illinois.

Follow @arjonesreports on Facebook and Twitter for more from city government reporter Andrew Jones.

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