By SAM MORGEN [email protected]
The Rialto-based Plant Prefab Inc. bills itself as part of the solution to California’s housing crunch. Offering high-quality, environmentally friendly homes to buyers, the company says it can meet the demands of the housing market faster and cheaper than traditional construction.
The company will take advantage of an Advance Kern tax incentive to launch the new factory that could employ up to 440 people per year.
“Right now, it’s hard to get buildings built on time,” Plant Prefab Vice-President Josh Tech told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. “With our building system, we actually can do things much better, at a better quality than you can do at the site.”
Traditional home construction involves assembling all the pieces of a house on-site, while prefab construction involves building the components of a home in a factory to ship to the site for assembly.
PPI recently announced $30 million in investment, including from the Amazon Alexa Fund. The company has two factories, in Rialto and Ontario, but the Kern County site is expected to be its biggest yet.
“We build our product at a small scale in these two factories at the moment,” Tech said. “This new factory is going to be state-of-the-art, with automation, high-class material handling, those types of things that we can scale at a factor of 20 times what we’re doing now.”
Kern is offering a tax rebate worth up to $6.6 million over 30 years — or $15,000 per each full-time job — to bring the company to the county. Plant Prefab must hire at least 50 full-time workers by June 30, 2023, to meet the agreement, and it plans to hire 100 to 150 in the first year of operation.
Advance Kern is the county’s primary method for attracting new businesses and helping others expand. The relatively new incentive has previously brought Amazon and Loreal Paris to Kern. As the county tries to diversify the local economy, it views the Plant Prefab deal as a win-win that is good for county workers and good for local investment.
“This is an agreement that brings a company here that is an award-winning company, that has a super-great track record on how they compensate and manage their workforce,” said Kern County Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop. “They are really building a state-of-the-art product that lots of people are interested in. It’s the exact kind of company that we want to locate here in Kern County.”
In a state with ever-rising housing costs and developers who complain of regulations that slow down the pace of construction, prefab homes are seen by some as one solution. The technology has slowly advanced over the decades to a point where it is being seriously considered to address housing and labor shortages throughout the state.
Andy Fuller, president of Fuller Apartment Homes and principal of Presidio Capital Partners, told The Californian homes are still able to be produced in Bakersfield cheaply and quickly using traditional construction, but coastal cities could see a big benefit from prefab designs.
“It’s been 30 or 40 years in the making to this point, but it is definitely making more sense every year,” he said.
The county is even seeking Plant Prefab’s help in housing those experiencing homelessness. Sooner rather than later, more and more homes could be built using this method.
“It’s a very good thing for Kern County and I think that location makes a lot of sense,” Fuller added. “I do think it is the future. Like any kind of business it has its challenges, but it’s been a long time in the making.”
You can reach Sam Morgen at (661) 395-7415. Follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC
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