UPDATED: Chinese company comes to Denver, brings 600 jobs

Chinese manufacturer Chongqing RATO Power announced today that it will establish its North American headquarters in Denver and will hire as many as 600 employees in a temporary manufacturing while it searches for a permanent site for its production and distribution center.

“This is the start of something really big that can help change this community and this area,” said Gov. Beverly Perdue who was in Denver for the announcement. Perdue said she hoped the announcement was the “first day of a long-term journey together” with RATO.

Although the company’s headquarters will be in Denver, the future site of a huge manufacturing, distribution and research and development campus is still up in the air. Officials say Lincoln County is in the running for that location along with sites in South Carolina, but company officials are reportedly leaning towards Denver if details can be worked out on site and infrastructure needs.

RATO builds engines, all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles, power tools and other products. The company intends to become a major player in North America with similar products manufactured in the United States.

About 40-executive level jobs were announced Tuesday, but up to 1,000 workers may eventually be employed by the company.

RATO bought Denver-based Denver Global Products in January in a deal that was reportedly worth $70 million. That set the stage for the announcement Thursday at Verdict Ridge Golf and Country Club that was attended by a host of local and state dignitaries as well as company employees and customers.

Roger Leon, who owned Denver Global, is now vice chairman of the board of RATO, and president of RATO North America. He will oversee the company’s operations in the United States.

Leon praised Perdue for her efforts to bring new companies and jobs into North Carolina. He said RATO is in North Carolina as a result of one of her initiatives.

Leon introduced Zhu Liedong, chairman of RATO, who he called a “man of great vision” with a desire to “grow the ties that bind our two countries.”

Through an interpreter, Zhu said his company has experienced tremendous growth since it began four years ago, and he expects even more rapid growth as soon as manufacturing gets under way in the United States.

Perdue said the company’s new North American president – Leon – is a “treasure” for Lincoln County, and a “dynamic business leader” whose background and leadership will help the company reach its goals.

RATO intends for its company to become a well-known brand name in North America and is highly regarded for the quality of its products. Engineers in Denver have been at work for months testing engines and fine-tuning power products.

Perdue said RATO’s choice of Denver for its North American headquarters is significant not only for Lincoln County but the entire state of North Carolina. She thanked local officials and the Lincoln Economic Development Authority for its work in landing the deal.

Although RATO has not decided on Lincoln County for it huge manufacturing facility, the county is near the top of the list, something the governor hinted at Thursday.

She said the decision to make the company’s headquarters in Denver “bodes tremendously well” for manufacturing jobs coming to the county.

County commission chairman Alex Patton made it clear that Lincoln County wants to be the site of the manufacturing and distribution facility.

“We want you to love it here and never want to leave. I think you will find everything you need right here in Lincoln County,” he said in welcoming the company. “It’s a great day to be in Lincoln County. It’s an exciting time.”

Tom Anderson of Denver, chair of LEDA and a former county commission chairman, served as emcee for the event and summed it up.

“This is a big deal and we hope it’s just the beginning of other big deals,” he said.

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