A new manufacturing plant is coming to Modesto and bringing 250 jobs with it in the process.
Entekra, a Ripon-based company which specializes in automated, off-site wood framing for home construction, is building a new 200,000-square-foot factory on East Whitmore Avenue along the city’s southern border. Once completed, the $35 million project will be the company’s corporate headquarters in addition to its largest manufacturing facility.
Entekra first launched in late 2016 and has been ramping up the production capabilities in its small pilot plant in Ripon ever since. Last year, Entekra received a $45 million investment to construct its second, larger fully automated factory. Now, the results from that investment are rising as the building’s exterior is nearing completion next to the former Post Foods plant.
Entekra CEO Gerard McCaughey said the exterior shell and roof work should be done in about three weeks. Then by late June or early July, equipment should start being installed, with the site beginning limited production sometime around August.
Renovations should be completed on a smaller building that will house the corporate offices by that time as well. The remainder of the factory’s equipment should be installed and fully operational by December, making it one of the — if not the — most technically advanced construction manufacturing plants in North America.
That also means hiring more than 200 positions to work in the plant. The bulk will be construction, manufacturing and framing jobs, but the company is also looking to fill engineering, design, marketing and customer service positions. Some hiring has begun, but the complete job list has not been posted yet. McCaughey said those interested in employment should visit the Entekra website, www.entekra.com/careers.
The new plant is nearly 10 times the size of the pilot plant, a 27,000-square-foot facility just off of downtown Ripon. That location will remain open, and be an auxiliary manufacturing plant to support the larger Modesto site, McCaughey said. The Ripon plant currently has about 50 employees, most of whom will move to the Modesto headquarters when it is complete.
McCaughey said the company’s warm welcome in Ripon and the valley’s central location convinced them to search nearby for their new plant. He said assistance from the city of Modesto and Opportunity Stanislaus was particularly important when it came to site selection.
“Everyone was incredibly encouraging and helpful,” said McCaughey, a native of Ireland who previously owned the largest off-site home builder in all of Europe. “Literally, people welcomed us and did little things. Like in Ripon, restaurants agreed to open at off hours to allow our guys to get fed. They say the Irish are friendly people, but we have found the people in this part of the valley to be almost Irish.”
Opportunity Stanislaus has worked with the company on its staffing needs and is helping it find a skilled workforce for its open positions. That includes providing research and hiring support and job training assistance.
“Opportunity Stanislaus is focused on bringing high-quality jobs to our area, and Entekra fits that bill with hundreds of jobs in manufacturing.” said Opportunity Stanislaus CEO Dave White. “We look forward to continuing to assist Entekra with publicizing their company and helping connect them to area businesses and supply chain assets.”
According to Opportunity Stanislaus, Entekra’s new plant project will provide a $61.6 million annual boost to the local economy, and result in some 400 direct and indirect jobs in the area.
Modesto Mayor Ted Brandvold called the company a “terrific addition to Modesto’s business landscape” and praised city staff and Opportunity Stanislaus’ work to bring the plant here.
“It’s just the type of business that can thrive in Modesto with our quality workers,” he said.
City spokesman Thomas Reeves said no monetary incentives were provided directly to Entekra. Instead, the Economic Development staff worked closely with the company to get it through its permitting process in a timely fashion, he said. City staff also worked with Entekra to find various state and federal incentive programs and partnerships, which ended up providing about $100,000 in on-the-job training funding.
Already, the company has worked with a number of local home developers, including Fitzpatrick Homes, Van Daele Homes, Beazer Homes and the Lennar Corporation for developments in Turlock, Lathrop, Los Banos, Tracy, Sacramento and beyond. The new equipment and capacity at the Modesto plant will allow them to work on multi-family developments, like apartments and townhouses.
The new factory will up production capabilities exponentially, from about 500 homes a year to about 3,000. For builders, cost savings come in time and accuracy. McCaughey said that while traditional on-site wood framing takes about five workers 17 days to finish, his frames are built in the factory and only take about three days to complete and install. That calculates to around $850 a day in time savings alone.
McCaughey said this style of off-site, automated framing has been used in Europe for decades. But it differs from off-site produced prefab homes most Americans are familiar with. The custom wood framing, including exterior and interior walls and subfloor, are all made in a plant using high-tech automation. Then once completed, the pieces are assembled on site with a crane.
Entekra already has expansion on its mind. The company hopes to open a Southern California plant within the next two to three years as well. The Modesto factory will be able to service housing developments from the Oregon border all the way to Bakersfield once it is fully up and running.
“We’ve spent the last year talking to everyone, showing them the product in action, and that is now starting to filter through,” McCaughey said. “When we came to market and said we can put a house up to the roof in one day, the industry laughed at us. That’s gone now. I’d bet any builder who walks around (the Modesto plant) after it’s done will come out saying ‘why doesn’t everyone do this.’“