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How Technology Drives Manufacturing in Memphis, TN

Discover how advanced manufacturing in Memphis has helped companies like Electrolux, Nucor Steel, Olympus, Smith & Nephew, Unilever and Wright Medical Technology.

By Kevin Litwin on November 8, 2017

Memphis, TN
Memphis / Courtesy of Olympus Photographer

Greater Memphis enjoys a long industrial heritage that today, driven by technology, features significant clusters in such areas as appliances, food production, medical devices and pharmaceuticals. 

A central U.S. location, low utility costs, abundant skilled labor, a deep supply of high-quality water and a world-class transportation infrastructure that includes the busiest cargo airport in North America make the region ripe for advanced manufacturing growth. 

The Brookings Institution ranked Memphis No. 8 among the 100 largest U.S. metro areas for advanced industry job growth from 2013-2015. Recent major announcements include electrical- components giant Thomas & Betts, which is undergoing a $30 million expansion of its Low Voltage Product division that will add 300 jobs over the next five years. 

In 2016, China-based DunAn Precision selected Memphis as its first-ever manufacturing site to produce heat exchangers for air conditioners and refrigeration units, creating nearly 100 jobs. 

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It’s in the Water

The region’s food and beverage production sector is growing as well. Blues City Brewery manufactures and distributes several brands of flavored malt beverages, teas, energy drinks, ciders and beer. The Memphis facility is capable of annually making 60 million cases and 4 million barrels of product. Packaging capabilities include various sizes of cans, bottles and kegs. 

“Memphis provides us with cost-effective shipping to a majority of the country, plus there is a business-friendly climate here and reasonable costs for real estate,” says Tony Maxwell, Blues City Brewery plant manager. “We’ve made a large capital investment of more than $50 million over the last five years, and today we employ about 300 people.” 

Blues City Brewery has infrastructure in place to triple its production volume in the future. Maxwell says the quality of water available in Memphis is excellent, especially for a company like Blues City Brewery that utilizes water in its manufacturing process. 

“The water used at the brewery is extracted from aquifers known as the Memphis Sands, and the aquifers have some of the sweetest water in the world because of low levels of impurities like iron, fluoride, nitrate lead and copper,” Maxwell says. “The excellent water quality has attracted many firms to the city. The Memphis Sands are considered a hidden treasure and the city’s greatest natural resource.” 

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Paper Trail

Mitsubishi Electric Power Products manufactures transformers in a 350,000-square-foot factory and office building on a waterfront site in Rivergate Industrial Park. 

At KTG USA, 475 employees manufacture bathroom tissue, facial tissue, paper towels and napkins at a 1.4 million-square-foot paper mill that operates 365 days a year. 

“White Cloud is the main brand we manufacture, and we also make private label paper products for companies like Costco, Great Value (Walmart) and Fred’s,” says Fred Ceruti, general manager of KTG USA. “In total, we manufacture more than 1 million rolls of toilet paper every day.” 

KTG also makes products for the Canadian market under private labels like Cashmere bathroom tissue, Scotties facial tissue and Sponge paper towels. 

“Since we opened in Memphis in 2002, our ownership has invested about $500 million in new equipment upgrades for our plant, including $27 million in 2016 and $2 million in 2017,” Ceruti says. “Memphis is ideal for us, especially with its skilled labor pool and convenient transportation network along I-40 and other interstates.” 

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