SAN ANTONIO – An Illinois-based heavy truck manufacturer has hauled hundreds of jobs into San Antonio’s South Side, and it’s still hiring.
Navistar held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its nearly 1 million-square-foot facility off of Highway 281 on Wednesday. The plant has been building trucks since January, but plant director Rod Spencer said the event marks the facility truly beginning to ramp up.
“So you’ve been training. You’ve been hiring. You’ve been putting processes and policies in place. You’ve been finishing up construction. You mean getting manufacturing equipment installed. Basically, what this means is we’re ready to go,” Spencer said.
The plant will turn produce class 6-8 trucks, which covers construction vehicles like cement mixers and trucks for hauling freight. The facility is set up to turn out conventional models and electric trucks.
The Navistar plant will end up with about 650 employees - even more if it adds a second shift in the future - and already has about 500 people on the payroll. Only about 40 of them, Spencer said, were relocated from other Navistar facilities, while most are local residents.
Though he said the plant was on target for hiring, Spencer said they were having trouble finding enough experienced maintenance technicians.
Spencer said Navistar aims to be completing 52 vehicles per shift by the end of June, but with hundreds of workers who haven’t built trucks before, they’re only cranking out a handful per day at the moment.
The city and county have big hopes for the facility, providing more than $21 million worth of incentives combined, including tax breaks, grants, and fee waivers, and excited local officials swarmed the ribbon-cutting event.
“This is more proof that San Antonio’s advanced manufacturing sector is booming,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg.
Navistar also has an Advanced Technology Center roughly eight miles away, partially operating already with about 60 employees.
Navistar President and CEO Mathias Carlbaum said strong support from the local government helped bring the manufacturer to San Antonio, as did the proximity to its plant near Monterrey, Mexico, and the fact that “it is a center in the US where a lot is happening around new technology and it’s a very nice place to be for people.”
It’s also possible Navistar could increase its presence in the Alamo City.
The manufacturer was acquired by a subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group, TRATON Group, in July 2021. The $3.7 billion sale happened after Navistar had already begun its plans for the two San Antonio facilities.
Carlbaum, who was appointed as CEO in August, said the acquisition had been “with the ambition to grow in the US. Will that mean that we’ll grow also in this region? I would say yes, as we will elsewhere.”