SPRING HILL, Tenn.—One rubber manufacturer has fallen into a "groove" with innovative products and ongoing growth that has led to a nearly $2 million facility investment.
Groove Life said in July that it will invest $1.9 million to expand its Spring Hill headquarters and manufacturing operations. The investment will create 76 new jobs throughout the next five years and support business growth that includes product line expansion.
The company was first launched in Alaska with the help of a Kickstarter campaign in December 2015. It has grown into a leading provider of silicone rings, watch bands and belts for consumers with an adventurous lifestyle who want to display their individuality. Customers can purchase breathable silicone rings from six off-the-shelf collections, as well as a custom collection.
More recently, Groove Life began designing, testing and manufacturing the world's first breathable silicone watchband. Each watchband is made with breathable grooves on the interior from a medical grade silicone band and designed to fit Apple, Fitbit and Samsung watches. It is because of these innovations and popularity that Groove Life outgrew an old school building where it first was housed in 2017, when owner Peter Goodwin moved the company to Tennessee.
The expanded headquarters will include up to 15,000 square feet of space in a facility that previously was an old lumber supply company, about 100 yards from Groove Life's current location at the former Spring Hill High School. The expansion and renovation roughly will quadruple its space, and will house new hires in areas such as management, production, wholesale and more, said Matt Mitchell, Groove Life chief operating officer.
It is expected that the new space will be in use by October.
"We've absolutely outgrown our space and have been bursting at the seams now for awhile," Mitchell said, adding that Groove Life now employs more than 140 people, with most in full-time roles. "Just a few years ago, our fulfillment department fit into a 900-sq.-ft. old classroom at our (current) site. It's been a whirlwind."
Groove Life's raw materials are sourced from factories overseas, and the decorations and patterns are applied by team members in Tennessee using special machinery and equipment. The rings are nearly all injection molded before arriving in the U.S., but they include different sizes and profiles to match branded product lines.
Many of Groove Life's rings, watch bands and belts display professional sports team or collegiate logos. The company has developed exclusive licenses with these organizations, including more than 70 colleges and universities. Fulfillment, wholesaling, e-commerce and back-end operations are all housed in Spring Hill.
"We're really excited about the innovative products we have now and others we are discussing internally," Mitchell said. "One of the things that sets us apart is the breathable grooves we're adding to our products and the fact that all of our products are extremely comfortable and stylish."
Working with Groove Life has been an ideal match since the business first moved its operations to Tennessee in 2017, said Allen Borden, deputy commissioner of business, community and rural development for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. The department helped to recruit Groove Life to the state, and also assisted with the company's forthcoming discretionary tax grant and to secure tax credits. The amount of the discretionary grant will be announced later this year.
"Any time we can create (about) 75 family-wage jobs that provide our citizens with a great living we're extremely happy," Borden said.
Tennessee has built a strong base of manufacturers in the rubber, plastics and chemicals industry in recent years that have experienced revenue and employee growth. Since January 2015, TNECD has disclosed nine rubber manufacturing projects across the state. These projects have resulted in approximately 1,600 new job commitments and $468.4 million in capital investments.
The growth of Groove Life in a relatively rural area of Maury County is especially beneficial. Borden said the state offers many benefits to similar manufacturers. It has been a proactive effort to attract rubber and similar manufacturers over the last five years.
"We have the great fortune of being located within a day's drive of two-thirds of the American population," Borden said. Tennessee also has a strong system of highways running through it and access to the Mississippi River. "Whether it's rail, roads or water, we have effective methods of getting raw materials in and low costs of shipping (finished) products out."
Borden also believes that the state's general business environment of low business taxes (considered by the TDECD to be the lowest in the U.S.), having the lowest state debt per capita in the country and being focused on providing a high level of access to training and educational benefits are critical. Providing the type of discretionary tax grant and tax credits that Groove Life will receive are two key pieces as well.
"Our businesses appreciate that the state government won't balance its problems on the backs of small businesses," Borden said.
Groove Life's products undergo a rigorous testing process that confirm durability and quality, Mitchell said. Its products aren't the least expensive—retail prices range from $30 to $50 for most silicone rings—but are made of high-quality material and come with a lifetime warranty, he says.
"Even if you lose your rings or band, we'll send you a new one. We don't ask any questions, we just focus on customer satisfaction," Mitchell said.
Groove Life continues to research potential new products and innovations, like its patented Zeus Ring, which includes three layers and a unique inner band to prevent undue stretching. Most of its current and future products comprise injection-molded silicone or plastic materials.
The company sells both wholesale and directly to consumers, and has experienced consistent triple-digit growth annually. It counts numerous sports personalities such as NFL quarterback Phillip Rivers, MMA champion Michael Chandler and NASCAR driver Ward Burton as its customers.