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Swedens Permobil breaks ground in Wilson County

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Permobil, Inc. broke ground on Tuesday, Oct. 20 in Lebanon for its new $12 million North American Operations Center. Permobil, an international company based in Sweden, is the world’s leading manufacturer of custom-made powered wheelchairs. Permobil officials, who traveled from Sweden for the groundbreaking, were joined by local civic, business and economic development leaders for the ceremony. From left, are Judge Haywood Barry, Ward 5 Lebanon City councilor; Sue Vanatta, president and CEO of the Lebanon/Wilson County Chamber of Commerce; Mike Manous, R.A., Manous Design; State Sen. Mae Beavers, G.C. Hixson, executive director of the Joint Economic & Community Development Board of Wilson County; Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead, Robert H. Upton, vice president or T.W. Frierson Contractor, Inc.; Goran Udden, export director of Permobil, Sweden, and son of the company founder; Hans Bergh, outgoing CEO of Permobil, Sweden; David Bockian, senior vice president, T.W. Frierson Contractor, Inc.; Jon Sintorn, CEO of Permobil, Sweden; Larry Jackson, CEO and president of Permobil, North America; Tom Rolick, vice president of Global Sales, Lebanon; and Darin Lowery, general manager, Permobil, Lebanon.

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Permobil, Inc., an international company that is the world’s leading manufacturer of custom-made powered wheelchairs, will build its new $12 million North American Operations Center in Lebanon on a 17-acre site located in Park 840.

Groundbreaking ceremonies for the project were held Tuesday at the site.

The project is the largest, single capital investment that Permobil has ever made since it was established more than 40 years ago. Permobil’s new 120,000 square foot building will be the company’s second largest and most technically-advanced manufacturing facility. It will include more than 80,000 square feet of manufacturing space and nearly 40,000 square feet of corporate office space. Construction of the new building will begin late this month and is slated for completion in summer 2010.

“Permobil selected the site in Park 840 based on several criteria,” said Larry Jackson, CEO of North American Operations for Permobil. “It is a strategic location outside one of the largest healthcare hubs in the country. The business climate is ripe for growth. As the national demand for our mobility products increases because their outstanding quality, proximity to major interstates was critical.”

Jackson added, “We like Lebanon, Wilson County and the greater Nashville community. We are excited about growing our workforce over the coming years to keep up with demand for our products. We foresee long-term growth in our Park 840 location.”   

Permobil, which is based in Timrå, Sweden, has operated a manufacturing plant in Lebanon since 2000 in the Eastgate Business Park. Its new facility will be twice as large. When the new plant is completed, Permobil will double its Wilson County workforce within the next three to five years; the company currently employs 85 people in Lebanon and more than 145 people in the U.S. 

“Permobil has been an important corporate citizen of our community for nine years. This new major investment in Lebanon -- particularly in the current economy -- demonstrates Permobil’s confidence in the benefits of doing business in our city and state,” said Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead. “The presence of Permobil puts Lebanon on the radar screen of other European and international companies looking for a positive business environment, excellent location and skilled, reliable employees.”    

Green Technology Features; Largest Private Solar Panel Array System in Tennessee

The new Permobil building will incorporate a variety of innovative green-building technology   

This is a rendering of Permobil Inc.’s North American Operations Center to be built in Park 840 and designed by Manous Design of Lebanon.

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features, uniquely applied to meet the needs of a manufacturing facility.

“As an early pioneer and an ongoing innovator in the wheelchair industry, we’re proud to apply those same ideals and principals to the design and construction of our new North American headquarters through implementation of a host of green technologies,” Jackson said. Michael Manous, RA, Manous Design, Lebanon, is providing architecture and engineering services for the new facility. T.W. Frierson, Nashville, is the construction contractor.  

Manous said the new building will incorporate a variety of features to reflect the “quality of life” mobility products that will be manufactured in the Permobil facility. ADA requirements will be surpassed throughout the building. Features will include wide hallways, doorless entry into offices and covered handicapped parking spaces.    

Based on environmental conditions, 20 percent to 40 percent of the electricity for the facility will be manufactured on-site through a 60-kilowatt, photovoltaic solar panel array. The solar panel array, which represents a $450,000 investment, is currently one of the largest private systems of its type being planned in Tennessee. The system is designed for easy expansion. 

Other features will include high efficiency heating and cooling systems, day lighting throughout the building, upgrades in building insulation, low water-volume plumbing, and the use of bamboo and other renewable interior materials. Another environmentally-friendly feature on the site is the extensive use of rain gardens to filter and absorb stormwater run-off. These rain gardens are not only functional, but also create the appearance of natural features to help buffer parking areas, roads and other infrastructure. 

“Responsibility for the environment is part of Permobil’s tradition,” Jackson said. “Our environmental policy is a compass that guides us on a day-to-day basis and in our long-term, strategic decisions. The design of our new facility and the way in which it will be constructed is an example of our commitment to sustainability.” 

Manous noted, “The high level of environmental sensitivity continues throughout the building to such seemingly mundane items as the finish for the concrete walls used on the building’s facade. Instead of painting these panels with expensive coating, we are leaving the concrete in its raw finish, but adding reveals and form liners which will add a great deal of architectural character without the recurring maintenance costs of repainting.”

The walls of the building will be constructed using tilt-up concrete panels that are cast on-site. This method of construction was selected to meet Permobil’s criteria for durability, use of recycled materials, schedule and economics, according to David Bockian, senior vice president, T.W. Frierson Contractor, Inc.

Bockian said, “Frierson provided pre-construction services for Permobil and worked with Manous Design for several months prior to the start of construction, assuring that the owner’s goals for the project, the architect’s vision, and the greenfield facility’s cost and schedule all meshed.”       

About Permobil, Inc.: 

Permobil has been committed to enhancing the lives of the physically challenged for more than 40 years. As a world’s leader in developing and manufacturing powered wheelchairs, Permobil is a global company whose products can be found in more than 30 countries on four continents.  Its world headquarters office is Timrå, located north of Stockholm, Sweden. Its North American headquarters is in Lebanon. Permobil’s products include power wheelchairs, seating operations, accessories and operating systems. More than 700 agents or dealers sell its products in the U.S.  For more information, visit www.permobil.com.

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