An Arizona company has bought the troubled Fleetwood Homes complex on Gholson Road and may spend $2 million expanding it with an eye toward hiring 75 people.
Its plans hinge on a resurgence in the manufactured-housing market, Joe Stegmayer, CEO of Phoenix-based Cavco Industries, said when reached by phone Thursday.
“It’s not going to happen next month, but it’s something we will try to achieve,” Stegmayer said.
Riverside, Calif.-based Fleetwood Homes, a player in the manufactured-housing business for decades, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March. It has since sold its name, brand and several manufacturing plants to Cavco. The Fleetwood plant in Waco is the only one Cavco bought in Texas.
Local Fleetwood manager Ray Parma said the plant employs about 125 people. It has seen a steady decline in the size of its workforce as manufactured housing faced trying economic times.
Cavco bought the building on Gholson Road, where construction continues, and also acquired a nearby building where Fleetwood crews once worked before the slowdown.
It is there, Stegmayer said, that Cavco would invest in expansion.
“We have a building and plenty of land for additional facilities,” Stegmayer said. “We’ve been in business 45 years and consider ourselves long-term thinkers.”
Stegmayer said he hopes to get financial incentives that might help expand local Fleetwood operations. He’s been working with the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce to find out what’s available.
Kris Collins, the chamber’s director of business retention and expansion, said Waco may nominate the Fleetwood venture as an enterprise zone project. If the state were to approve that designation, it would refund the state’s portion of the sales tax Cavco pays on goods to upgrade the Fleetwood complex.
“Nothing will move forward on that until Cavco submits an application,” Collins said.
It’s possible Cavco could apply for money from the Waco-McLennan County Economic Development fund. To qualify, it would have to pay employees a minimum of $12 an hour and provide health insurance.
As for the future of manufactured housing, D.J. Pendleton, executive director of the Texas Manufactured Housing Association, said he sees glimmers of hope that conditions will improve. For example, he said the government’s tax incentive of up to $8,000 for first-time homebuyers does apply to those buying new manufactured homes.
“We’re also starting to see a little flexibility with the banks and capital markets, meaning more money could be available to buy homes,” Pendleton said. “Through the grapevine, I’m hearing hopeful optimism.”
Pendleton said Texas remains the leading producer of manufactured housing in the country, with 14.6 percent of the market. Still, production has dropped more than 30 percent in the past year or two.