When Volvo entered the Shippensburg market in 2007 after purchasing the former Ingersoll Rand facility, it was a much smaller presence than it is today.
In the seven years since, the company has made repeated investments and expansions. A $100 million expansion in 2012 made Shippensburg the new Volvo Americas headquarters. Today, Volvo employs more than 1,000 people representing nearly 20 nationalities working in operations, technology, sales and marketing, and customer support.
The facility manufactures soil and asphalt compactors, motor graders, pavers and screeds, wheel loaders and milling machines. Operations include welding, large machining, paint and assembly.
This week, the Volvo CE Customer Center opened for dealer events and conferences, site events and a chance for customers to test the Volvo machinery in a simulation site. Swedish Ambassador to the U.S. Björn Lyrvall and U.S. Reps. Bill Shuster and Scott Perry were among those on hand for the ceremonies.
Volvo CE Americas President Göran Lindgren agreed to answer a few questions on why Shippensburg works for Volvo and what the future holds.
Q: The customer center is a different kind of facility. What is it designed to do for Volvo?
A: It's all about enhancing the customer experience and the dealer experience. The customer center is a big part of that. The customers who come here, we'll take them through the factory and show them the quality of the work being done. ...
We actually have set up applications with the machines. If you lay pipe, we actually have pipe layers up there. We have excavators there so they can actually jump in a machine and try out and work in the application they are used to. ... We have these Volvo Days coming out of Europe and we will have the same thing here. We'll have events where customers are invited to come and see a show ... where you can display all the machines.
How will this kind of investment benefit the Volvo brand in the long term?
There's no doubt at all that this is a home market for Volvo. We're not going to go anywhere. It's a big statement that the brand Volvo, we've been here for so many years. This is another monument to show that we're here to stay and we're not going anywhere.
Why was Shippensburg selected for this facility?
You could say that Shippensburg picked us. ... We did a lot of research, of course, before we did this, but logistically, it's a good place to be for a factory. There's a good workforce around here, an established workforce for a factory, and it's been really positive for us.
What does the Volvo commitment to the region mean in terms of trickle-down economic impact?
We had an outside company do some research for us just in 2012 and they came up with a number of $2 billion U.S. dollars that we are the impact of in 2012. And that, of course, is defense contractors, that's sub-suppliers, that's taxes and everything. ... And as we move along now with the Customer Center, in phase two, we're going to build a training center here.
Eventually, we will have 8,000 overnights (visitors staying overnight) coming through that demo center, and another about 10,000 overnights going through training. ... Most of those people are here on expenses, and they will spend their money somewhere in this area.
How is the region meeting your labor needs?
With the blue-collar workforce, we're doing very well. On the white-collar side, sometimes we're looking for expertise that comes from the engineering side. We are facing some challenges to bring in people here. It's a little bit better now than when we started up here.
What upcoming congressional legislation for transportation and infrastructure is Volvo eying with concern?
The (federal) Highway Trust Fund is coming to an end now again in September. ... What the industry is asking for, to get some confidence in this, is a four- or six-year deal so we can know the money is coming. Everybody knows we need to do this, but it boils down to the funding. That's where everything falls apart. ...
It's important for us because our customers are actually doing all this work. And when the funding for the roadwork, when there's uncertainty around that, they don't know if they have any jobs or work six months from now, or a year from now, they're not going to invest. And they're not buying any new machines.
In early 2013, Volvo acquired 80 acres on Rowe Road near its factory on the Franklin County side of Shippensburg to build a customer demonstration and training center for the large road construction equipment it makes there.
In addition, the facility will host an American version of “Volvo Days,” a mainstay at Volvo’s Swedish facility since 1958. Volvo Days run for several weeks there and feature demonstrations of the dozens of Volvo tractors and trucks. Thousands of dealers and customers attend the annual event.
The Franklin County center includes a 53,000-square-foot building and multiple outdoor demonstration areas so that construction companies and equipment retailers can get a closer look at the soil and asphalt compactors, pavers and other machines made in the factory.
Volvo also added a 36,000-square-foot office building. The company needed the extra space to accommodate the 150 people who moved with its operations from North Carolina. The company employs about 1,000 people in Shippensburg, including 45 who work for the Volvo Rents division.
The company is expecting a lot of traffic to the demonstration center, Volvo officials have said.