Kent International CEO Arnold Kamler was thrilled to announce in January that his Parsippany-based company would soon begin assembling bikes in the U.S. for the first time in more than two decades.
And while that may be a good deal for manufacturing and jobs in this country, it may not prove to be such a good deal for New Jersey.
The assembly will be in South Carolina — and Kamler isn’t shy about the reason why. There was an aggressive push from South Carolina, he said, and a big labor cost difference.
“It’s really very simple,” he said. “We’re going to be investing a lot of money — in excess of $10 million. I would not consider investing that in a state that’s not a right-to-work state.”
The family business has been in New Jersey for nearly 100 years. And Kamler admits: “It would be a heck of a lot easier to do where you have your main operations.”
The end result? Those operations may move to the production plant.
Kamler would not say the company, which has annual revenues in excess of $200 million, is leaving New Jersey anytime soon, but that day may come.
“At some point we’re going to have relocated our executives,” he said. “We’ll need to move a chunk of our people down there.”
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THE BIZ IN BRIEF
NAME: Kent International
CEO: Arnold Kamler
EMPLOYEES: 80 worldwide, 70 in N.J.
HISTORY: The four-generation family business dates back to 1909; it moved to New Jersey in 1947.
REVENUE: More than $200 million annually
ONE MORE THING: Kent builds 3 million bicycles a year, selling them in mass-market retailers such as WalMart and Target. In 2016, it is targeted to assemble a half-million bikes in the U.S., a number it plans to grow moving forward.