JACKSON CENTER, Ohio - The Airstream trailer, seen all across America's roads and campgrounds, is an iconic American shape. Thanks to a new generation of explorers, the company is undergoing a major renovation and the gleaming trailers are rolling in record numbers.
Bob Wheeler, the president and CEO of Airstream, knows the heritage behind his company and its timeless design, "it's bigger than all of us."
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The silver bullet is recognized as a piece of Americana, but the Buckeye State is where it all happens. In a two-stoplight village in Ohio, the classic aluminum travel trailers are build using about 5,000 rivets each. "This is the humble rivet. This is really what the heart and soul of what the Airstream travel trailer is all about," said Wheeler.
The company was first founded in 1929 by Wally Byam out in California. But in 1971, production moved east to Jackson Center. Wheeler said the factory employs about 1,000 of the hardest workers around. "The term 'Midwestern work ethic' may be cliché and gets overused, but it's absolutely that."
Over the last five years, Airstream has recorded major growth. Sales are up 218 percent. A whole new crowd of buyers, the millennials, are driving more production and hauling in more jobs. The company is now in the middle of building a new 750,000 square feet facility, a $40 million investment. The new facility sits just a half mile away from where they're currently located.
"We think Ohio is a great place to do business," Wheeler told WEWS. "I think we'd struggle mightily to find that kind of dedication and that kind of workforce anywhere else and that's the main driver why we've decided to expand here in western central Ohio, there's really no place like it."
Airstream plans to hire about 200 more employees once that new facility is completed.