By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
There’s a good deal of construction underway right now at the end of Goldenfern Lane in the Hardin Valley area of West Knoxville as Innovate Manufacturing Inc. nearly triples the size of the facility it occupied in 2015.
According to Scott Huff, the West Point graduate who founded Innovate International Limited in 2004 and Innovate Manufacturing 11 years later, the expansion is driven by simple economics. “Shipping product from China that can be made here doesn’t make financial sense,” he told us recently.
We first spotlighted the company in this August 2017 teknovation.biz article where Huff explained the history of Innovate International. He launched it as an engineering design firm, but soon morphed it into actual contract manufacturing and lived for a number of years in China. That knowledge has helped Huff successfully navigate the trade challenges while also meeting the needs of its customers.
“It focuses you to do things differently,” he explains.
Innovate Manufacturing describes itself as a contract plastics manufacturer with complete solutions from engineering and tooling to manufacturing. It specializes in injection molding, blow molding and injection stretch blow molding, particularly for products that Huff characterizes as hydration items.
“We’ve been planning for this expansion for several years,” he says, and the demand from global giants that lead the Fortune 100 list have driven the latest expansion. “We have to have the project completed by May.”
Employment earlier in 2020 totaled about 60 people before it rose to 80 at the end of the year. John Lin, Vice President for Engineering, expects that number will nearly double to 150 by the end of 2021.
“I hope 150 (employees) will be enough,” he adds.
The expansion will also allow Innovate Manufacturing to register as a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) facility to manufacture a product that Huff described as “close to medical.” Innovate International already has an FDA-registered facility in China.
The first word in the company’s name – Innovate – says a lot about the Founder’s philosophy.
About the new product, Huff simply said, “We approach items that set us apart from others.” In terms of finding qualified talent, he says, “They don’t teach this (what and how we do it) in school. We make it up as we go.”
In doubling its workforce, Huff says Innovate Manufacturing values “people who can learn . . . people that can roll with technically-challenged, automation-driven jobs.”