Johnson County might not be known for high fashion, but that hasn’t stopped Paris-based luxury retailer Louis Vuitton from selecting the rural area south of Fort Worth for its third U.S. manufacturing plant.
A large ranch just outside of Keene, about 28 miles south of downtown Fort Worth, has been purchased by Louis Vuitton for construction of a leather goods workshop to make luggage and purses. The facility is expected to be under construction by early next year and open by 2019, eventually employing up to 500 people, officials said.
Johnson County Judge Roger Harmon, who helped approve a package of government incentives to bring Louis Vuitton to the area, said the selection of a rural Texas site shouldn’t really be a surprise, based on how the upscale retailer plies its craft.
“Most of their manufacturing plants are in more isolated places,” Harmon said. “They call their employees artisans, and they like an area with a lot of serenity to it. They’re going to put a lot of glass in the building, so the workers will have a view of the land. It’s still going to stay a working ranch. They have exotic game now.”
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Louis Vuitton operates 17 workshops worldwide, including two in California. Most of the workshops are in Europe, a company official said.
The Texas workshop probably will have fewer than 100 employees in the first year, with a gradual expansion to about 500 employees over several years, the official said.
Louis Vuitton will receive a 45 percent property tax abatement in its first year and, once the company has 500 employees, will receive a 75 percent abatement for 10 years, Harmon said.
Also, a $1.1 million state grant will be used to improve roadways near the plant, officials said.
Construction of the Louis Vuitton plant is expected to cost about $20 million.
Some area residents have raised concerns about how the plant might upset their rural lifestyle.
But Harmon said it’s his understanding that much of the plant will be built on the backside of a hill at the roughly 250-acre Rockin’ Z Ranch, which means passersby on County Road 316 near Alvarado Lake might hardly notice the facility is there.
Keene is a city of about 6,300 residents that was settled in the 1850s, and later became known for its large population of Seventh-Day Adventists.
For years, residents of the city battled myths about their lifestyle. For example, it is not against the law to host a barbecue or mow a lawn on Saturday. Also, although the conservative religion discourages eating meat, restaurants in the area are free to serve whatever they want.
Louis Vuitton is part of LVMH, a global conglomerate of companies that produce luxury goods. LVMH is headquartered in Paris. Other subsidiaries include Dom Perignon, Sephora and TAG Heuer.
Louis Vuitton also is opening a store at The Shops at Clearfork, a high-end retail area in west Fort Worth that held its grand opening last month.