Tech company opening production facility in Clarksville, adding 45 jobs – News and Tribune
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By: Danielle Grady
August 20, 2018
CLARKSVILLE — Clarksville is getting high-tech. On Monday, the town announced the coming of its first technology company.
Mobile Initiative, a Louisville manufacturer of cost-effective smart phones, tablets and other technology, will be hiring 45 people within the next three years to work at its new $2.3 million production facility at 511 Little League Boulevard in the same building as Clarksville Strike & Spare.
“This is huge,” said Clarksville Redevelopment Director Dylan Fisher.
Fisher hopes that Mobile Initiative could be a “case study” to attract more technology companies to the town.
“They’re our first,” he said. “and we did pretty will with No. 1 so we’re looking for No. 2”
From a jobs perspective, Mobile Initiative is a good fit for the town because it will pay its workers higher-than-average wages at $23.97 an hour (compared to the regional average of $21.28, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development). Its production floor jobs will pay around $20 an hour.
Positions will be listed on Mobile Initiative’s website, mobile-initiative.com.
CEO Mike Dahl promises that Mobile Initiative also will offer good benefits and a positive company culture. At the Monday announcement, he emphasized a focus on people — his employees and customers.
Currently, Mobile Initiative manufactures its products overseas in China and the Netherlands. Dahl said it was always his intention to bring production back to the United States and the Midwest despite the high costs that he thinks frighten most tech companies.
“…Our goal is within five years to have all our production in the United States,” he said. “Which, [for] a manufacturer, a telecomm manufacturer out of the U.S., is unheard of, and we don’t think that needs to be the case.”
Dahl is halting only his Chinese operations for now, but will eventually transition his production in the Netherlands to the U.S., Fisher said.
Dahl, who grew up in a tech-focused family, started his company 16 months ago, and is surprised that he’s been able to realize his goal of moving Mobile Initiative’s Chinese operations back to the United States so soon. His original timeline was to move production stateside by 2020, but the Clarksville facility should be up and running by January 2019.
“I think we’ve been disrupting the marketplace so much,” Dahl said, as a reason for his success. “It’s not that we’re bringing a new technology, we’re bringing a new service.”
Mobile Initiative’s first consumer phone, the Ethos, is $175. It’s an Android smart phone that’s sold online without a contract and unlocked, meaning that it can be connected to any carrier. Mobile Initiative also creates custom tech products and hardware for customers.
At Monday’s announcement, Dahl promised to start getting involved in local charities, too. His company currently donates a portion of the profits from each device it makes to a good cause.
When Dahl was looking for a place to make his Chinese products in the U.S., he concentrated his search on the Midwest and the Louisville area — not Clarksville specifically. That was until the town approached him.
Fisher wanted two things for Clarksville: to score a tech company and to find a user to fill the empty 35,000-square foot space in the former Peddler’s Mall, which currently houses CC Powersports and Strike & Spare. It can be a difficult task to fill a space so large, he said.
The town has been working on transforming the Eastern Boulevard corridor for a while now with street and sidewalk improvements, and Fisher believes Mobile Initiative’s production facility will bring more development to the area.
The town owns five acres of land in front of Mobile Initiative’s new space, which Fisher hopes to transform into a mostly non-commercial, non-retail space — potentially a multi-family development with some businesses that would appeal to company employees. The town recently hired Stantec to create some options for the land.
To attract Mobile Initiative, the town helped create an incentive package for the company with the state of Indiana. On Aug. 7, the Clarksville Redevelopment Commission voted to approve a $150,000 five-year forgivable loan for the company financed with EDIT funds, which will complement unidentified incentives from the state. It took the two groups just over two months (and help from other organizations, such as One Southern Indiana) to go from introductions to announcement.
Fisher believes that the town’s investment is worth it: for Mobile Initiative and other projects that the town has been focused on, such as connecting bike and pedestrian paths to the Ohio River Greenway.
“Once they finally get going and you get case studies like Mobile Initiative in, really just the sky’s the limit for the amount of similar projects like this, we believe,” he said.