China-Based RATO To Open U.S. HQ In Lincoln County, Hire Up To 600

February 2012 Powersport News

By Ken Elkins, Senior Staff Writer

Charlotte Business Journal

RATO North America will hire as many as 600 employees in Lincoln County (North Carolina) as it sets up a temporary manufacturing facility to bring its engines, all-terrain vehicles and other products to U.S. consumers.

The company, a subsidiary of Chongqing RATO Power Co. Ltd. of China, announced last week that it will establish its U.S. headquarters in eastern Lincoln County, bringing 40 executive-level jobs, as it searches for a site for a large manufacturing, distribution and research and development center.

That larger facility could eventually employ 1,000 workers, says Zhu Liedong, chairman of Chongqing RATO.

N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue says she welcomes the jobs and prestige the Chinese company brings to the Charlotte area.

"RATO wants to become a brand that all of us in America values," she said during an invitation-only event at Verdict Ridge Country Club.

Perdue, who has visited China twice during her term as governor, threw a few words of Chinese into the conversation with Zhu Liedong, chairman of Chongqing RATO Power Co. Ltd. of south-central China.

"We believe today marks the first day of a long journey together," Zhu said, speaking through a translator.

RATO bought Denver Global Products Inc. of Lincoln County's Denver community in a deal that closed Jan. 1. The transaction was reportedly valued at $70 million and resulted in Denver Global President Roger Leon being named vice chairman of the RATO board of directors in China.

RATO is looking in the Carolinas and Georgia for a permanent 450,000-square-foot distribution and research center to bring its engines, and perhaps its motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles, to consumers in the U.S.

Lincoln County is still in competition with sites in South Carolina for the larger project, Lincoln Economic Development Association officials say.

In Lincoln, the new Airlie park along N.C. Highway 16 and a newer park called Teardrop are being proposed for the RATO facility.

The smaller, temporary manufacturing center will begin operating as soon as this fall. A site for that facility hasn't been selected, but Leon believes it will be in eastern Lincoln County.

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