Hobbs Bonded Fibers, which makes quilt batting and insulation products for industry at 200 Commerce Drive, has closed its manufacturing plant in Trenton, Tennessee, and will relocate what’s left of that operation to Waco.
“We plan to move a new production line from there to here in October,” said company president Larry Hobbs, speaking by phone. “We’re talking about a multimillion-dollar upgrade that should bring another 20 to 25 jobs to Waco. We’ll need support staffers in the maintenance area, a line supervisor, a quality control liaison, all of those positions must be filled.”
He said in an interview Monday that hiring already has begun.
Hobbs Bonded Fibers now employs about 130 between a 225,000-square-foot site on Commerce Drive and the 185,000-square-foot former Tyco Healthcare Retail Group building at 4920 Franklin Ave. Its local automotive-related production line operates on Franklin Avenue. The operations being relocated from Tennessee could find itself in one or the other, Hobbs said.
Company founder and namesake Carey Hobbs, Larry Hobbs’ father, bought the plant building in Trenton, Tennessee, in 2006. It was considered a strategically located midway point between automotive-related manufacturing companies in Michigan and the Midwest and Tennessee and the Carolinas.
Carey Hobbs and the estate of his late wife actually own the building, said Larry Hobbs. The company has more than a year left on its lease.
The plant, as well as a Waco division, send sound-softening materials to facilities building vehicles or providing product to Toyota, Nissan and Chrysler. As demand for sedans waned amid the growing popularity of trucks and SUVs, said Hobbs, orders for Hobbs-produced insulation declined.
Still, Hobbs said the company remains a player in the automotive industry, though its move from Tennessee to Waco represents a return to its roots and more conventional offerings such as quilt batting and insulation for apparel, especially severe weather gear. It also is considering expanding its presence among furniture and mattress manufacturers, Hobbs said.
“Can we expand in the building on Commerce Drive, and would a new line be compatible with what we do here?” Hobbs said. “That’s the wild card.”
Hobbs Bonded Fibers, earlier this year, had one of its production processes featured in “How It’s Made,” which airs on Science Channel.
“We have so many products that we manufacture, and this is one of our most interesting: bison fiber,” Hobbs told the Tribune-Herald at the time. “We take bales of raw fiber harvested from bison and use synthetic materials to create long stands of fiber that are tough and ideal for extreme weather jackets.”
A film crew from “How It’s Made” was making a four-week swing through Texas that began Sept. 11 in Denton and moved throughout North and East Texas. It then shifted its focus to Central and South Texas.
“That’s a niche market for us,” Hobbs said Monday. “The product is shipped to colder climates. There would be no demand for it in Waco.”