环球资讯 / Business / Macro

Chinese investment gives wheelpower to small US town

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-11-08 11:27

WHITE COUNTY -- Every morning James Wilkerson arrives around six o'clock at the factory sitting next to the water tower of Monon, a small town located in a farming midway between Indianapolis and Chicago.

With his safety glasses and earplugs on, he supervises workers building semitrailers from iron sheets and frames which will be used to haul freight.

"I've been in the business for about 36 years," the 58-year-old told Xinhua. "The trailer industry has always been established in Monon. So most of the local people were employed at one point in their lives in the trailer business."

Wilkerson is director of manufacturing at Vanguard National Trailer Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of China International Marine Containers (CIMC), a Shenzhen-based leading transportation equipment company.

Vanguard comes to town

Wilkerson recalled his work experience in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when HPA Monon, the trailer company on whose land he is standing now, employed over 400 workers. That was then about one third of the town's population.

HPA Monon saw its heyday around 2000. Then the company slashed its workers to less than 100 and closed in May 2002. In 2003, Vanguard came into the picture. With new equipment, investment and management in place, the factory has gradually recovered to a healthy operation.

With over 400 people, Vanguard has become Monon's largest employer, contributing some 80 percent to the local gross domestic product.

Once a railroad junction, Monon had a glittering past when trains were the king of transportation. Different rail lines converge in this White County town in Indiana, and old-time tracks still reach into its heart. But all passenger train services have long closed.

This railroad memory is well preserved at Whistle Stop, a signature local eatery as well as a landmark north of the town. Over the dining tables, two G-scale model trains run on a grid, with "Vanguard" emblazoned on a front carrier.

"Vanguard is so important to the health of the town," Randy Mitchell, president of White County Economic Development, said. "Probably every family has had a member that has worked either at Vanguard now, or previously."

Now with the presence of Vanguard, Monon is literally a "semitrailer town." The Vanguard factory, with an area half the town's, is full of lines of diverse semitrailers.

The two semitrailer companies in White Country, Vanguard and Wabash, together produce "most of the trailers in the United States right now," Mitchell said.

By the assembly line, most Vanguard workers said they haven't felt much difference after the CIMC acquisition of the factory.

"We are a Chinese-owned company, but we are American-run," Wilkerson said.

True collaboration

Hundreds of jobs were created in Monon, thanks to the CIMC investment, Vanguard CEO Charlie Mudd said.

Mudd thinks "there is a more grand story" here, since the Chinese investment also brings along a wider development space and market access.

"The CIMC vehicle group companies across the globe share ideas, information, resources, suppliers and strategy in ways that no other trailer company can," he said.

He regards Vanguard as a "fantastic example" of global cooperation and expansion, as it allows for strategic cooperation and coordinated resources planning.

"I believe we are doing more than just building trailers for the North American market," Mudd said. "We are creating opportunities globally."

Vanguard is expanding. It has opened another factory in Trenton, Georgia, creating about 200 jobs.

"The best success comes from the combination of Chinese knowledge and capabilities paired with American knowledge and opportunities," Mudd said.

"True collaboration," he commented.

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