Sen. Rob Portman visits Airstream factory

JACKSON CENTER — U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, took a trip to Airstream travel trailer and recreational vehicle manufacturer in Jackson Center Tuesday afternoon to tour their recently expanded factory floor. He also visited the new Heritage Center Museum to learn about the factory itself and the history of Airstream and its founder Wallace “Wally” Byam.

The tour of the factory and museum was led by Airstream President and CEO Bob Wheeler. During the factory tour, Portman learned more about why Airstream is one of the top manufacturers and top employment choices for workers in the area. Airstream is a first-shift operation and offers an hourly rate in the top 10% in Ohio according to Wheeler. Entry wages start at $22 per hour and within 90 days the majority of employees reach $26 per hour with health benefits.

Portman expressed how much it meant to him and Ohio that Airstream chose to build their “mothership” in Ohio rather than in another state, like California, that has a larger customer base. Airstream in Jackson Center is known as the “mothership” by the community due to the ability of buyers to come in and take the company’s free daily tour and watch the different stages of their Airstream being built as well as their factory service on site to repair Airstream travel trailers and RVs.

“I just love this factory, I’ve been here before to the old factory. I’m so proud that it’s here in Ohio. They’ve just added more employees and have about 1,500 workers here and pay really well [with] good benefits. He (Bob Wheeler) just talked about some of the educational benefits but they also have good healthcare. They have a really happy workforce, I talked to a bunch of people on the floor who are happy to be here. I just think it’s a great example of top-line manufacturing done here in America and specifically in Ohio,” said Portman.

After touring the factory and Heritage Center Museum, Portman led a roundtable discussion with representatives from Jackson Center, Shelby County Commissioners, the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, the National Aviation Heritage Alliance and the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park.

“I’d like to take a moment to honor the senator for his commitment to making those destinations (national parks) a great customer experience. The Restore Parks Act and addressing the unmet maintenance needs for those parks nationally and here in the state go hand-in-hand with the success of this company and the RV industry as a whole,” said Wheeler.

Portman is known as a senator who promotes conservation efforts in Ohio which include getting more Ohioans out to support the various national parks in the state. Supporting Airstream and their manufacturing of travel trailers and RVs not only promotes his efforts in conservation, such as the Restore Parks Act, but also his hopes to pass a jobs bill before his time in the Senate is up in three months. The jobs bill he hopes to pass would allow for the Pell Grant to be used for short-term education and certification classes for various fields including manufacturing which would in turn support companies like Airstream by providing a larger qualified workforce.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4825.