It’s not even Halloween and the folks at TAXA Outdoors already know what present they’re getting this holiday season, and it was No. 1 on their wish list.
The Houston-based manufacturer of “mobile human habitats” is bursting at the seams at its current location, and over the holidays the company is relocating from its current 20,000-square-foot facility to one that’s 67,000 square feet.
“It’s an entirely new facility,” said Divya Brown, president of TAXA. “We are not building it from the ground up but we are building it to our specs internally. So, we are redoing office structures and putting in manufacturing lines and all of that. So it is a complete new facility to us. We’re really excited.”
TAXA Outdoor was incorporated in 2014 and started production on the first its four models – the Cricket – in the 2016-17 time frame, said Brown, who joined the company in 2018.
TAXA’s founder and CEO, Garrett Finney, is an award-winning designer and former senior architect for the Habitability Design Center at NASA.
With such a background, you can imagine that right out of the gate the Cricket stood out as unique among the towables on the market.
“After a decade of working on the International Space Station and consulting on lunar habitats for NASA, I designed Cricket, our first camper, and TAXA was born,” reads a Finney quote on the company’s website.
The company’s other three models – the Mantis, Tiger Moth and Wooly Bear – followed the Cricket in their uniqueness and their reflection of Finney’s unique design style.
The company has been eyeing this move for about a year-and-a-half, Brown said, and almost pulled the trigger last year but that deal fell through. With a backlog of about $10 million in orders – about eight months of production, she said – it can’t wait to get the new facility up and running in early 2021.
“(Moving in) should pretty immediately double our production rate, and potentially in a short period triple our rate,” Brown said, adding that TAXA takes possession of the new building in early December and she expects the move will take six weeks.
“Most likely, even if we were able to produce it’s difficult to run full shifts and full crews during the holidays, so we’re going to utilize the crew that wants to work during that time period and utilize them for actually moving to the new facility, making sure it’s set up,” Brown said.
From a production standpoint, this is a huge move up for TAXA, she said. Soon, the days of a solitary production line will be gone for good.
“At the new facility we’ll be able to run one line of continuous product; our most in-demand product right now is the Mantis, and then we would run another line which would cycle through the other three remaining products,” Brown said.
The move will be the capper to an amazing year for TAXA, despite COVID-19. The company voluntarily shut down manufacturing in March for a couple weeks while it instituted all the necessary safety precautions for its employees, so it didn’t experience much down time. And since then, TAXA actually more than doubled in number of employees; it’s now at 65 and will be adding another 30-40 once full production is up and running at the new site.
A couple of the recent new hires were to key executive positions. Nick Patel has been brought in as director of supply chain, and Camilo Rodriguez will soon be the director of manufacturing operations. Erin Baer, who currently holds that position, will be transitioning into director of product design and engineering.
With his architectural and design background, perhaps no one is more excited about the move than Finney, Brown said.
Since he’s working with a blank slate, his vision is of a facility that’s open and welcoming, that invites creativity and inspires a love of the outdoors. A factory floor is a factory floor, but there’s a lot he has planned for the lobby, office areas and common areas, she said.
“We’re trying to incorporate the fact that being in these habitats and being able to create your own space can happen wherever you are, which is really important to us,” Brown said.