Exercise-equipment maker Precor Inc. has begun hiring workers for its new $26.2 million assembly plant near Greensboro, NC.

Exercise-equipment maker Precor Inc. has begun hiring workers for its new $26.2 million assembly plant in Whitsett, NC, a suburb of Greensboro.

The 236,000-square-foot facility, which begins ramping up production this month, will employ some 100 welders, upholsterers and general manufacturing workers by May 2010. In three years, the plant could employ more than 140 people. Salaries for the positions will vary by job, but the average annual wage will be $38,456, excluding benefits.

The facility will assemble strength-training equipment for health clubs, hotels, universities and other commercial venues. Headquartered in Woodinville, WA, Precor had been making its strength-training equipment at a plant in Valencia, CA. However, the company decided to shift production east to save money on shipping costs. More than 60 percent of its business is east of the Mississippi River.

“We built the facility to increase our manufacturing capacity and give us a manufacturing and distribution presence on the East Coast,” says Rob Martin, senior marketing manager at Precor. “The facility will help us fulfill overseas orders, as well.

“It’s a great investment for us. We are bullish on the strength-training marketing, and this plant is going to give us a lot of flexibility in capacity.”

Production at the Valencia plant will be phased out as the Whitsett facility ramps up.

Outside vendors supply many of the components for Precor’s strength-training equipment, including steel framing, weight stacks, foam pads and vinyl for upholstery, and injection-molded plastic parts, such as shrouds, pulley covers and cams. These parts are put into a “supermarket,” where workers can pull kits for various models as orders come in.

From the supermarket, the kits are moved on carts to manual and robotic welding cells. After welding, the subassemblies go through an automated powder-coating line, and then to final assembly, where seats, weights, handles and grips are installed. At the end of the line, a functional test is done on each machine. Each machine is then packaged and shipped fully assembled.

Early in the planning stages for the project, Precor wanted the facility to be certified for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design by the U.S. Green Building Council. Environmentally friendly building materials and techniques were used to construct the facility. Inside the plant, contractors installed low-energy lighting and energy-efficient heating, ventilating and air-conditioning equipment. Manufacturing processes were designed to reduce water consumption, maximize recycling, and minimize waste sent to landfills. Outside the plant, water-efficient landscaping was planted, and bike racks were installed so employees can ride to work if they choose.

The project was made possible in part by a $142,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund. Administered by the state’s Commerce Department, the fund provides financial assistance through local governments to attract business projects that will stimulate economic activity and create new jobs in the state. Through the One North Carolina Fund, more than 35,000 jobs and $6.5 billion in investment have been created since 2001.

Editor’s note: With all the news of bailouts, layoffs and plant closings, it’s all too easy to think every manufacturer is stuck in the doldrums. In fact, there’s plenty of good news in manufacturing-if you take the time to look. “Moving Forward” is dedicated to new or expanding assembly plants. If you know a facility that’s opening, growing, investing in new equipment, or simply going great guns while everyone else is treading water, we’d like to hear about it. Send an e-mail to John Sprovieri, editor of ASSEMBLY, at sprovierij@bnpmedia.com, or call 630-694-4012.