A California company that makes modular homes plans to build an $80 million, 450,000 square-foot facility at the Montana Connections Business Development Park in Butte that could employ up to 150 employees the first year and more after that.
Officials with San Diego-based Dvele (pronounced deh-VELL) told commissioners of their plans at Wednesday night’s council meeting, saying they chose Butte in large part because of its connecting interstates and its people, including county officials who helped with their project.
“You’re wonderful to work with,” said Stace McGee, vice president of development for Dvele. “As we defined having challenges, you worked with us to try to overcome that challenge and understand how we can move forward.” Casey Dudley, a growth specialist for Dvele, joined McGee for the announcement.
"This is truly an exciting project for Butte and the Montana Connections Park," said Kristen Rosa, who oversees the business park and the tax-increment district that has paved the way for its growth.
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The Dvele facility will make modular homes that can be built in months and then be shipped out for placement. They can be built at 30% to 40% less cost than traditional houses, McGee said.
The timeline is not definitive but McGee said they hope to start construction on the facility this summer.
The factory would have between 100 to 150 employees the first year after construction and it would jump to about 300 in the second year. “By the fifth year it would be almost 500 employees,” McGee said.
Some of the employees would come from Dvele operations elsewhere but they hope to hire “a couple hundred” new employees from Montana and perhaps other states. McGee said that would be a hurdle with the tight labor market.
“That is the big challenge because everybody in our country right now is dealing with, ‘Where do you find people to work?’” he said. “And so we’re trying some very innovative ideas and we’ll be really getting on that here in the next couple of months.”
J.P. Gallagher, Butte-Silver Bow’s chief executive, said he ran into McGee about a year and a half ago in the courthouse rotunda and asked if he could help him. McGee told him he wanted to inquire about property at the business park.
“I said, ‘I can find those people for you,’” Gallagher told commissioners, drawing laughter. McGee then worked with Rosa and Community Development Director Karen Byrnes, and Rosa said Thursday the board that oversees the Tax Increment Finance Industrial District was also a big part of assisting McGee and his team.
Gallagher said they looked into potential workforce pools on Wednesday.
“We went over and met with the carpenters union and the sheet metals union today so they can start talking to them about what the impact would be on those unions,” Gallagher said. “So they’re doing their due diligence on what we need to do as a community and reaching out to make those connections.”
McGee said the modular homes built at the factory would mostly be “workforce housing.” That typically means they are targeted to middle-income workers, a segment that is finding it more difficult to afford home purchases.
“Wealthy people can obviously afford what they want but workforce housing has been something that is missing all over the United States of America and it has put us in what I believe is a crisis in housing,” McGee said.
“We don’t have housing for teachers and nurses and firemen and the people that help us in our daily life and we intend as developers to do something about it,” he said.
McGee said Dvele would bring in a “core group” of innovators and designers and many of the company’s employees “are so excited to move to Montana.”
“We really hope in the future we can work with Montana Tech, we can work with Highlands College and that we can create Butte into an innovation center for modular building,” he said.
Rosa said she appreciated the Dvele team and the county would "continue to assist them in any way we can to ensure this project comes to fruition."