Portobello celebrated the grand opening of its first manufacturing facility in the United States on October 17, 2023, in Baxter, Tennessee. Strategically located near the largest supply of raw materials for tile production in the U.S. The company brings with it an economic boost for the small Southeastern town, including the creation of over 200 jobs.
“We’ve built 250 new homes since Portobello started,” said City of Baxter Mayor John Martin. “We’ve got almost 2,000 homes that’s already been approved for our city. It’s bringing businesses in. If it wasn’t for Portobello, we wouldn’t have any of this.”
Tennessee Commissioner Stuart McWhorter was present to talk about the efforts by the Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD) to recruit Portobello to the state of Tennessee. According to McWhorter, communication between Portobello and ECD began five years ago which played a role in ECD keeping its commitment to bring international business to Tennessee.
“We have over 1,000 foreign businesses now in Tennessee,” McWhorter said. “One hundred seventy-thousand Tennesseans are employed by international businesses across the state. The state has been fortunate to have leadership that recognizes the importance of recruiting international businesses.”
Portobello Grupo, a family-owned business founded in 1979, is headquartered in Brazil where it has two manufacturing facilities. It has been looking to expand into the global market and with the new Baxter facility, it has accomplished its goal. The decision to enter the American market was met with some challenges, however.
The land was purchased in 2019 just prior to the pandemic. Then, in 2020, the pandemic hit. COVID-19 and raw material shortages delayed the start so, the company switched gears and focused on prepping the land for the building, according to Luiz Felipe Brito, CEO, Portobello America. Construction of the facility that now houses its U.S. headquarters, showroom and manufacturing finally took off in 2022 and production officially began in August 2023.
“We came here to be an American company run by Americans to attain the American market,” said Cesar Gomes, vice president operations, Portobello, concerning the importance of making products that appeal to American consumers.
While American wants and needs are top priority, the company emphasized it is incorporating Brazilian quality in its American products. To ensure that American workers are properly trained and educated on the tile production techniques used in the Brazil factories, groups of Brazilian employees are rotating out in the Baxter facility, staying for weeks at a time to train the incoming workforce, according to Brito.
The facility is not at full capacity currently, but in roughly 80 days, it will have completed the build-out of the small tile production area within the 900,000 square-foot building, said Jed Durbin, vice president of manufacturing, Portobello America. The company will then have the ability to produce small tile formats ranging from 3x6” to 4x16” rectangle tiles, 8x8” hexagons, and 6x6” and 8x8” square tiles.
The grand opening on October 17 gathered state and local officials, Portobello leadership and employees, and the press. It opened with live music performed by The Voice Season 17 winner Jake Hoot followed by a presentation moderated by Pedro Andrade, a Brazilian journalist who has been a host on ABC and a correspondent for both Nightline and Good Morning America.
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