Area motorcycle maker on growth track
BY KYLE ARNOLD World Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
MOUNDS — Motorcycle and engine manufacturer U.S. Highland Inc. is revving up production at its Mounds headquarters and says it plans to hire 200 to 300 people in the coming year.
Company leaders this week announced plans for an expansion that could include five new buildings to accommodate production lines for motorcycles as well as more space for research and development.
Chief Operating Officer Chase Bales said U.S. Highland plans to launch a retail line of bikes in the coming months and will also begin manufacturing engines and motors for other companies. It now has about 30 employees.
“We’ll need a few hundred more people in a few months,” said Bales, who is also a part-owner of the company.
U.S. Highland moved to Oklahoma from Sweden two years ago to make street and off-road sports bikes. Mats Malmberg, a former professional rider in Europe and founder of the company, said he wanted to take advantage of the larger American market.
“It’s a much bigger market for motorcycles here,” said Malmberg, who still designs and tests the company’s prototype bikes.
In Sweden, Highland was a niche motorcycle manufacturer and sold some 1,500 bikes from 1999 to 2006.
U.S. Highland’s customer base could expand when the retail line is launched this summer.
The company, Bales said, is know for its custom and speciality bikes. He said customers will be able to order bikes 100 percent customized instead of buying a stock bike and making modifications piece by piece.
U.S. Highland has specialized in motorcycles but is also reaching into all-terrain vehicles, using the same engines that power its bikes.
The company is performing research and design out of a 30,000-square-foot facility near U.S. 75 that is a former Christian boys ranch.
Bales said U.S. Highland expects to add about 100 workers by August, with the rest to come in the following months as business grows.
“These are going to be good jobs, and everything will be made right here in the United States,” said Randy Medlin, a part-owner who is managing U.S. Highland’s racing department. “We definitely make a higher quality motorcycle, and the price reflects that. But over time, we think people will be willing to make the sacrifice on cost up-front for less down the road.”
Medlin said many of the jobs coming to U.S. Highland, such as those welders, will pay $15 to $17 an hour.
Bales said the company’s research and development is also catching the attention of other industries in the United States. U.S. Highland makes both gas-powered engines and electric motors, and it’s involved in everything from marine equipment and generators to military research and development.
Medlin said he expects a large portion of business to come from making its engines for other companies. He said the company has several deals in the works but he could not discuss specifics.
Medlin said U.S. Highland officials have registered the company to be traded publicly; shares are sold over the counter as UHLN.OB.