By Matt KeltonPioneer Sentinel
The first Blue Ridge Exotic Transporters product rolled away from the company’s new home in Henrietta Thursday, May 9. But before the custom-built enclosed car-hauler left the plant, company owner Phillip Herndon gave city and county officials a first look.
At full production, Herndon expects Blue Ridge Exotic Transporters to produce 300 small utility trailers and 50 of the large custom car-haulers per year. Herndon said Blue Ridge Exotic Transporters is also planning to start production of another model of car-hauler, of which the company could build 200 per year.
Blue Ridge Exotic Transporters is a new company for the Herndon family. Denise Herndon and Jana Herndon join Phillip Herndon in the business. Phillip Herndon said they would continue to operate Blue Ridge Trailers in Canton for the time being. Blue Ridge Trailers has been in business for five years.
The company chose Henrietta for the size and cost of the plant, as well as the availability of workforce.
“We needed more area to grow — a lot more area to grow,” said Herndon. This is a big enough facility that we can grow in to it, and there is land available close to here so that if I need to build more, I can.”
The former Silver Creek Manufactured Homes plant offers Blue Ridge Exotic Transporters more than 100,000 square feet of production space, said Herndon, quite an improvement over the 8,500 sq. ft. facility that Blue Ridge Trailers is operating out of. The main production space in Henrietta alone is 8,800 sq. ft., said Herndon. The company has already leased the second largest building on the property to another company.
The company has 10 employees with plans to have at least 25 within its first year of operation, as required in an August agreement with the Henrietta Growth Corporation. All but one employee are in training. Once the manufacturing facility is fully developed, it could employ as many as 50 skilled labor positions. Blue Ridge began moving in and renovating the plant, located at 1092 S. Graham St., in January.
Blue Ridge’s custom transporter weighs in at 3,500 to 4,000 pounds less than similar models built by the company’s competition. The difference in weight allows Blue Ridge customer Pete Mulling to haul six cars instead of five.
“Anytime I can decrease the weight of my equipment, I can increase the weight of my cars,” said Mulling. “Volume is the way of the future. Money is always an issue to corporations that want to be profitable, and they want the best value in their move. This way, I can give it to them by increasing volume. What really got me started was how light this trailer is compared to other manufacturers — thousands of pounds,”
Herndon said the Blue Ridge Exotic Transporters are also one inch wider, and have taller, stronger doors than car-haulers produced by other companies.
“Everything we do, we try to do a little better than the competition,” said Herndon.
Herndon believes Henrietta is an ideal setting for the company because of the skilled workforce available. “Building mobile homes is very similar to what we’re doing. It’s repetitive work. Of course, these aren’t mobile homes, but the (workers) should fit right in.”
Two of the main products needed to build the trailers are acquired locally. Wireless remote controls used to operate the rear lift gates are purchased from Pierce Sales in Henrietta, while aluminum wall panels and other parts are made by Tower Extrusions in Olney.