A high-end maker of work truck bodies has expanded into Shafter with its purchase of a 10-acre property off 7th Standard Road where it expects to fill as many as 150 manufacturing positions starting in mid- to late summer.
Fresno-based Scelzi Enterprises, bursting at the seams after racking up double-digit growth in each of the last 12 years, said it has begun pouring cement as a first step in site modifications since taking possession two weeks ago of the 36,366-square-foot former Weatherford International facility.
The extent of operations there remains to be finalized but Scelzi Marketing Manager Bill Vander Plaats, said the idea is to perform painting, assembly, welding and other manufacturing work. Doing so locally should benefit the company's customers at Bakersfield truck dealerships, he said.
Landing the business is a significant win for efforts to diversify the local economy beyond oil, ag and distribution work.
"Having that manufacturing plant be a highly successful and respected Central Valley company makes it even better," Shafter Economic Development Director Bob Meadows said.
The project represents a good reuse of the Weatherford site, CEO Nick Ortiz of the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce said, and it builds on a strength in Kern County's industrial workforce.
"One of the things that we do have some big capabilities in, largely because of the oil industry, is that metal-working side of manufacturing," he said.
Coming amid heightened interest in local manufacturing property, Scelzi's expansion addresses the company's need for more capacity outside Fresno, said a Bakersfield industrial real estate broker involved in the transaction, Wayne Kress, who added the deal also speaks to a broader trend in U.S. manufacturing.
Demand for U.S. warehouse space is booming as companies rethink their supply chains and as the price differential with Chinese manufacturing shrinks, Kress said by email. That could be a good thing for Kern.
"Such re-shored manufacturing won’t land in the major metro areas of America, for they are the most expensive places on earth to do business," he wrote. "No, they will land in secondary and tertiary markets — like Bakersfield."
Scelzi was founded in 1979 by Gary, Jim and Mike Scelzi and it remains owned by the family. With 450 employees in Fresno, Riverside and La Salle, Colo., the company has grown to become the biggest truck body manufacturer west of the Mississippi River, serving fire departments and other government agencies as well as trades from cementing and roofing to farming.
Made only of steel and some aluminum and wood, Scelzi truck bodies are known for being built to last, not for being inexpensive. The company works primarily with truck dealerships instead of selling direct to consumers.
"Their reputation for quality is very, very good. They build a quality product and they stand behind it," said Greg Broida, who became familiar with Scelzi as a fleet manager in Bakersfield vehicle sales. He now works as commercial and fleet manager at Turlock Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram.
"It will help the Bakersfield market in terms of availability of product and service after the sale," he added.
Vander Plaats said the new facility is planned to open this fall and that the company expects to employ at least 100 people at the site by the end of this year.
By about mid-summer applications will be accepted for welders, assemblers, painters and pre-painters, he said, but for now the only local hiring being done is for managers and department leads with supervisory experience. He directs interested job candidates to Scelzi's website, seinc.com.
People without training in those specific disciplines will be considered, Vander Platts said, because the Scelzi brothers learned on their own and figure others can, too. He said the bigger goal is to make the industry's highest-quality truck bodies.
"Work trucks take a pounding and we want stuff that's going to last a long time," he said.
Weatherford, an Irish-based oilfield services company, still employs people locally after emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in late 2019. The company did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.