Kayak-maker bringing distribution facility to Erwin

Nathan Baker • Updated Jul 9, 2018 at 6:31 PM

A U.K.-based kayak-maker plans to move its North American distribution facility from Asheville, North Carolina, to Erwin, bringing with it eight to 10 new jobs and a $1 million investment.

An emailed press release from the Joint Economic Development Board of Unicoi County Monday announced the coming arrival of Pyranha to a spot in a crook of the Nolichucky River on Tenn. Highway 107 previously occupied by Cherokee Adventures, a now-closed business that offered guided whitewater tours.

“This business fits in with the profile that we and the original partnership have been looking to recruit,” board Executive Director Tyler Engle said. “We are pleased to see Pyranha and others like it looking to locate in Upper East Tennessee.”

The company makes molded plastic whitewater and touring kayaks at its headquarters in Runcorn, an industrial port town near Liverpool. The facility in Erwin will be the distribution base for those boats heading to dealers all over North America.

According to the release, the boat-maker plans to spend up to $1 million to upgrade the property, building and equipment at the Erwin site.

Mike Patterson, Pyranha’s U.S. head of operations and an Erwin resident, said the company’s cost of doing business in Asheville has risen over the last 18 years, leading to the move.

“The proximity to Interstate 26 along with the low cost-of-living, affordable real estate and low taxes make Erwin and Unicoi County the obvious choice,” he said. “The facility we chose was one of the first places to come to mind, with room to expand if needed, and access to the beautiful Nolichucky River.”

Economic development officials have been working over the past few years to capitalize on the region’s natural attributes, hoping to draw outdoor recreation tourists and similarly themed businesses. For them, the landing of Pyranha is a big win for that campaign.

“This is exactly the result we hope to see as we continue to encourage investment in our natural capital as a form of economic development,” Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership’s Outdoor Development Manager Kayla Carter said. “Erwin is ahead of the trend in terms of tapping into the outdoors as a form of economic vitality. All of our regional partners should take note and follow suit as we will all benefit from Pyranha’s investment in Erwin.”

Engle said Pyrnha could inspire other outdoor companies to relocate.

“We believe that one business begets another, and we’re very hopeful that this will inspire others to locate in our region of East Tennessee,” he said.

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