Milestones mean something to companies. A multi-decade birthday, the advancing size of sales, or in the case of Kubota this week, hitting the 1 million mark from a factory. In this case, it is the KMA facility where Kubota has been building products since it opened in 1988. Since 1994 wheeled machines have been in production, and that's the milestone: 1 million wheeled vehicles from the plant.
The company held a luncheon to roll out the special vehicle, this case an RTV1120D, decked out with special wheels, a high-end sound system and a hot LED lightbar. The machine also features special decals noting its position in history. And it is to be auctioned off during the national dealer event as a fundraiser, but more on that later.
The 1 Millionth Vehicle event has a host of dignitaries both from the company and the region. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal was on hand to say a few words, noting that soon the state would earn another "Best Places to do Business" honor, for the third time in three years. And Northeast Georgia has seen a lot of benefits from having Kubota in the area.
Kazuo Sunaga, consul general of Japan in Atlanta, notes that in the 26 years since Kubota opened the plant in Gainesville 600 more companies from Japan have come to the state investing $12 billion, creating 36,000 jobs.
When KMA - Kubota Manufacturing of America - opened its doors in 1988, there were 44 team members on hand and the plant made loaders and backhoes, implements to be added to Kubota machines. Today, the total number of employees for the facility, and another that grew from its original start, is 2,300.
It was 1994, when Kubota decided to make T Series tractors - the first wheeled equipment to be made by the company here in the United States, and the Gainesville, Ga., plant was the location selected. As production grew KMA split into two entities with KIE - Kubota Industrial Engineering - taking on implement manufacturing in Jefferson, Ga., leaving KMA in Gainesville to focus on wheeled machines.
For 2015, the company rolls through another event with this special vehicle. Brian Arnold, chief manufacturing officer, KMA, notes "it took us 21 years to hit the 1 million mark, but we're going to pick up the pace and in seven years we'll hit our next 1 million units."
That pace comes from a new facility, which started construction in September, and it will be dedicated to building the popular RTV machines. The 500,000 square foot plant will add another 700 employees for the company, boosting employment to 3,000. Arnold explains that in keeping with the company's motto "For Earth, For Life" the new plant will be energy efficient, have a zero volatile organic compound paint system (in fact, two paint lines) and a state of the art water facility. The plan is for that plant to produce 50,000 RTVs per year. "That's two every minute," he adds.
To hit those numbers the new facility will have two miles of conveyors, two paint lines, two main assembly lines and 50 welding robots. The facility will be fully deployed using just-in-time delivery of parts to maximize the space too.
Of the 1 million vehicles made at KMA since 1994, 250,000 of them have been RTVs, which is pretty good since the company didn't get into the utility vehicle market until 2004.
The original KMA facility where BX tractors and ZD zero-turn mowers are also produced, will have the space where RTVs are made now repurposed. Arnold didn't say much about what that space would be used for, so we'll have to wait and see.
Local connections and doing good
Local dignitaries were on hand for the big event too. Kubota has long had a partnership with Gainesville city officials, has worked with Hall County officials, and with the opening of KIE in Jefferson, Ga., worked with Jackson County too. To show its support for the community, as part of the 1 millionth celebration, Kubota also donated specially optioned RTV units to the Gainesville City Police department, and to the Hall County Fire Department.
That special 1 millionth vehicle Kubota rolled out will be auctioned off with the proceeds going to the Farmer Veteran Coalition, a group started by a California farmer that works to give tractors to veterans in need. Started post 9/11, the program aims to help out those veterans who need a hand up, not a hand out. There are criteria for qualification, and Kubota has donated machines to the program.
You can learn more about this group by visiting their website to find out the work they've been up to. Michael O'Gorman is executive director of the organization, and he started the program as his 'next career' after years pioneering new kinds of agriculture in California.
Kubota also supports the program through its Geared to Give program where it provides funding for the Farmer Veteran Coalition, but also gives away a tractor to a veteran each calendar quarter. The association works to determine the recipient of the tractor. The second tractor given away for the program was during the 2015 Farm Progress Show.