Luxury-minded Louis Vuitton scours the nation for a new U.S. factory site, and discovers Keene, Texas



Back in the summer, the chairman of French luxury goods maker Louis Vuitton let it slip at a high-brow fashion show in Paris that the company was looking to open a new manufacturing site in the U.S.

Then earlier this month, the 163-year-old company bought 256 acres of land in Keene, Texas, from Dallas surgeon Wayne Z. Burkhead Jr. and Rockin’ Z Ranch LLC, according to the Cleburne Times-Review.

Last week, Johnson County commissioners approved a tax break package that will bring the leading fashion house’s 100,000-square-foot factory to the city of 6000 residents. The tax breaks total about USD 91000 a year for 10 years.

Keene beat out North Carolina for the project, which was known as Project Mustang before the land purchase became public.

Paris-based Louis Vuitton is considered the world’s most valuable luxury brand, and its products include leather goods, handbags, trunks, shoes, watches, jewelry and accessories. Products bearing the LV monogram are among the most sought-after by luxury shoppers.

Louis Vuitton’s 2016 sales topped USD 9 billion, and its brand is valued by Forbes at USD 28.8 billion.

The company operates 17 leather goods workshops, including 12 in France, three in Spain and two in California. It also has a shoe workshop in Italy, a watch-making workshop in Switzerland and a jewellery workshop in France.

The idea of a new U.S. factory was floated as a possibility when LV Chairman Bernard Arnault visited then President-elect Donald Trump in New York in January, according to Bloomberg.

WFAA-TV (Channel 8) reported that the Texas factory, which would make luggage and purses, represents a USD 20 million investment and could result in 100 to 500 new jobs.

But not everyone is keen on the company’s plan. Nearby residents told commissioners they’re concerned about added traffic from the factory’s workforce and the removal of trees to widen a rural road leading to the site.

They’re also not convinced the factory will spur economic growth that matches its brand cachet.

“There is a proper place for Louis Vuitton, and that is in an industrial park,” one resident told commissioners.

Johnson County officials are hoping for a January groundbreaking and a 2019 start of production.

Louis Vuitton recently opened a store at the new Shops at Clearfork retail centre in southwest Fort Worth. The 500000-square-foot centre is home to a luxury line-up that includes Neiman Marcus, Tiffany & Co., Tory Burch, and Z Gallerie. LV also has locations in two of Dallas’ high-end malls, NorthPark Center and the Galleria.