The Masters Tournament Helps Highlight Augusta-Based Textron Specialized Vehicles
The Masters Tournament is currently underway, and with the focus of the golf world on Augusta, Georgia, we decided to speak with Brandon Haddock of Textron Specialized Vehicles.
What is Textron Specialized Vehicles and who is Brandon Haddock? Both are excellent questions. Perhaps you’ve heard of, seen, or even driven an E-Z-Go golf car (apparently they’re cars, not carts). Textron is the umbrella company that makes E-Z-Go’s, which have been made in Augusta since they were founded in 1954.
The golf industry is massive in Georgia, and it’s more than just wonderful courses (though those are pretty sweet). Companies like Textron employ thousands of people in the state and create some of the most widely known products in the golfing world.
We spoke with Haddock, Textron’s director of communications, about how the company is doing, what the future holds, as well as what they look for in an employee.
What is the economic impact of Textron Specialized Vehicles in Augusta?
We have a very substantial impact in the state of Georgia and particularly in the Augusta region in terms of employment and investment in the area and in the community.
We employ between 1,400 and 1,500 people in the state of Georgia, with about 1,200 coming to work here everyday in Augusta. We also have a plant in Kennesaw that manufactures ground support equipment for the aviation industry.
We manufacture hundreds of different models of vehicles and equipment here in Augusta not only for the golf industry, though we’re probably most known for E-Z-Go golf cars, but for commercial businesses and consumers. We manufacture many different types of products beyond the E-Z-Go golf car here in Augusta.
We are a significant employer in the area and we support a lot of other local businesses that supply us either directly with parts and components that feed into our vehicles as well indirectly through services that we acquire to help us in running our business. We’re a very integral part of the local industry and we rely on those folks to help us operate every day.
I think we have a very positive relationship with the city and both sides benefit from that.
Tell me about the expansion Textron recently announced.
We acquired the former Proctor & Gamble facility down the road from our headquarters in South Augusta. That’s about 600,000 square feet of manufacturing space on a 240-acre site. So we’re expanding our operations here in Augusta. In fact we’re already building and have been building for over a year.
A few months after we acquired that facility we announced that we would be integrating the operations of one of our sister Textron companies, Jacobsen, out of Charlotte, and relocating Jacobsen’s manufacturing and operations to Augusta. The first Jacobsen equipment rolled off of our new assembly line in Augusta last month, and by the end of the year all of the operations that had been in Charlotte will now be out of Augusta.
They make professional turf care equipment for golf courses, professional landscapers, and municipal and commercial turf care providers. We announced both the expansion and relocation in 2016.
What does this expansion mean for Georgia's workforce?
We expect that we will create somewhere between 500-600 new jobs over the next five years here in Augusta. They’re going to be all types of jobs. You’ll have everything form assemblers that will produce the product on the factory floor to specialized skilled labor such as welders or machinists to engineers who are actually designing our products. We’ll also hire folks who work in finance and HR and administrative support roles. It will run the gamut of all types of roles across the board. We have been hiring and are currently hiring. In fact, we had a job fair in partnership with the Georgia Department of Labor and the Georgia Department of Economic Development just about a month ago to hire approximately 70 workers for our new Jacobsen operations. We had over 1,000 people show up for those 70 jobs, so it was a very impressive turnout and I think it speaks to the quality of the local job market and also to the reputation that we enjoy in the community as an employer.
What does Textron look for in an employee?
We certainly look for folks who have a high school degree, but mainly we’re looking for a strong work ethic and people willing to come to work and work hard every day and help us be better. We don’t just want people who come in to punch a clock. We’re looking for people who have ideas and are willing to share those ideas so we can improve our operations and operate more efficiently and effectively.
Obviously in our skilled positions (like welders or engineers) there’s additional training and experience needed. We recruit very actively from a number of universities and colleges in the region to help us fill those roles.
What does the immediate future (18-24 months) look like for Textron's Augusta operations?
I think we’ll continue to grow. Our growth trajectory and our plan would tell us that we’re going to continue to add jobs. I suspect we’ll add anywhere between 150-250 jobs, if not more, based on what we’re seeing in our industry and in the industries we support. We’re very excited about what the immediate future holds for us. We’re excited to be growing in Georgia and in Augusta specifically.
What do you think the golf industry means to Georgia's economy?
If you look at the golf industry as a whole, it is an incredibly vibrant asset for our state economy. When you look at the number of people golf courses employ, the indirect jobs they help create through the service industry and equipment providers/retail shops, I think the golf industry is humble and quiet about its impact, but I think it’s an incredibly important asset to our state. We’re also fortunate to have some of the worlds most famous and finest golf courses, so that helps.
What's it like for Textron the week of The Masters Tournament?
It’s a big week for us. We entertain a lot of customers and partners this week. With the center of the golf world being in Augusta here this week and with us being a big part of the golf industry we have a lot of customers who come to town for the tournament and we take advantage of having them in town. We host a lot of plant tours, and we host a hospitality house where we feed customers throughout the week. It’s a very big week for us, because it’s very rare for a company to have the opportunity to have the focus of its industry be in its hometown. The eye of the entire golf world is focused on Augusta and we take full advantage of that.
What's your favorite Masters tournament memory?
That’s a hard one. I’ve lived in Augusta basically my entire adult life, and I’ve watched The Masters tournament religiously for years as I think all Georgians and certainly all Augustans seem to do. I’ve been fortunate to go to a number of tournaments. I look back to all of the events that happened on the course, from watching Tiger just destroy it in his first appearance to seeing Phil Mickelson win his first green jacket to seeing Bubba Watson, a good Georgia Bulldog, win the tournament a few years ago; all were great to see. But you know, of all of those moments my fondest memory was being able to be at the course with my dad. He exposed me to the game at a very young age and he loves golf. To be able to walk around the course with him and to see him be able to take it all in after years of watching on television and actually be there in person was very rewarding. It was one of those moments that as a family you just don’t forget.