JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – A local hot tub manufacturer will add a second shift and hire 150 new workers in response to a spike in demand for hot tubs and spas.
LPI Inc. will also increase its base wages to $15 to $18 per hour and provide raises to many of its existing 350 employees, CEO David Hatley said Thursday.
“A lot of consumers during the pandemic got accustomed to staying home,” Hatley said. “It’s just caused an incredible demand in our industry from the pool industry to the hot tubs to really anything back yard right now is just booming since the people got to spend all that time at home.”
The company will have two job fairs June 25, one from 1-3 p.m. and the other from 6-8 p.m. Hatley encouraged people who plan to attend to visit www.lpiincjobs.com and apply for one of the open positions in advance.
Last year, LPI purchased a second Johnson City building, the former CanTech site, for a distribution warehouse. That’s allowing its main 318,000-square-foot facility on Twin Oaks drive to increase production volume.
“Adding the shift will increase our capacity while allowing us to maximize our space here at this facility,” Hatley said. “And raising the wages we think will help us get additional qualified labor force in the area that we can maintain long term.”
Hatley said after an initial surge in orders during the COVID-19 lockdown didn’t abate after states began to open back up, he knew the company needed to act.
“We really think that the paradigm of the way people think has probably shifted for at least the next few years in our industry based on what happened,” he said. “With people not traveling as much and a lot of excess money to spend we really see a shift towards our products for the near future and we don’t see that slowing down.”
Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership Chair Will Barrett said the company’s ramp up is a boon to the local economy at a very important time.
“It’s really rare in this kind of uncertain time that you’d have someone coming out increasing the number of jobs as well as the wage,” Barrett said.
The ramp up will put LPI’s local headcount near 500, and the company also plans to move 100 more jobs producing swim spas from St. Petersburg, Fla. to Johnson City within a year.
“This sudden boom has delayed that project,” Hatley said. “We’ll be able to push the volume out here and immediately transfer the inventory over to the other facility (the distribution warehouse).”
Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock said the expansion is one of several recent pieces of good economic news for the city. Others include an expansion at Crown Laboratories and Lab Connect moving its headquarters from Seattle with plans to add 100 jobs.
“It’s always great to see our homegrown companies experiencing success and creating jobs,” Brock said. “The addition of jobs and pay increases is particularly good news as we hope to be among communities on the leading edge of economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.”
Barrett said LPI has been a growing contributor to local growth.
“They’ve really invested into this region and to made in America production, and I really hope that – fortune favors the bold – that they can really capitalize on this opportunity,” Barrett said.