|Parent company incorporated as Birmingham Speed of America, Inc.|
They are the hottest motorcycles in the world. Owned by movie stars, rock stars and at least one foreign prince, they have been celebrated on the covers and in the pages of leading magazines around the globe - from the Robb Report and duPont Registry to Forbes, Fast Company and I.D. magazine. And soon, they will be made in Birmingham, Alabama, a city once proclaimed as "the Magic City" for its spectacular growth during the early part of the 20th Century - and one that surely seems to be recapturing that magic during the early years of the 21st.
Confederate Motor Company, Inc. of New Orleans, maker of the breathtakingly beautiful and incredibly expensive Hellcat and Wraith motorcycles, is moving its corporate headquarters and sole assembly plant to Birmingham's Southside, just across Fifth Avenue South from another trendsetter known as WorkPlay, where some of Birmingham's most creative talents work, hang out, and thrive. Coupled with the recent announcement of a loft condominium development in the same block - to be called "LivWorkPlay" - this announcement comes as more welcome news proclaiming that, to the "cool creative class" coveted by cities everywhere, Birmingham is hotter than ever as an urban destination for young, forward-thinking individuals and progressive companies.
The motivation for Confederate's move is an unusual blend of misfortune and good fortune. Tracing its roots to 1991, the company operated in an historic New Orleans warehouse from 2002 until August 29th of this year, when Hurricane Katrina smashed that building to the ground. Instead of looking for a temporary location where they could quickly recommence operations, the company's management decided to take advantage of the unfortunate situation and rethink the company's future as well as its growth plans. Thus began a disciplined tour of more than a dozen cities around the country - including Atlanta, Austin, Birmingham, Boulder, Chicago, Dallas, Jackson, Pittsburgh, Shreveport and Santa Fe - to see what potential each might offer.
Among the major factors that clearly set Birmingham apart were the Barber Motorsports Park and Museum, encompassing the world's largest and finest collection of vintage and modern motorcycles that could serve as inspiration for future Confederate models, as well as Alabama's automotive manufacturing infrastructure and a highly trained automotive workforce from which the motorcycle manufacturer could draw employees.
"We knew about George Barber and his consummate passion for motorcycling," said Confederate's founder and managing director Matt Chambers, the highly successful Baton Rouge lawyer who gave up a lucrative legal practice nearly 15 years ago to pursue his own passion for establishing a new American design philosophy. "But we didn't expect to find such an incredible level of professionalism coupled with such incredible hospitality," he added. "Mr. Barber and his team are dedicated to making things happen in Alabama in economic development and it's not just talk - they have a strong background and solid proof that their efforts are working."
The Confederate management team made several trips to the city, and what they discovered on their own - from celebrated chef Frank Stitt's world-class restaurants to Birmingham's vibrant loft developments - sold them on the idea that both working and living in this Southern city would be very appealing.
"This is not a temporary move," adds Ike LaRue, Confederate's chief financial officer and operating director, "and to underscore that, we have incorporated a new holding company with Birmingham in our name - 'Birmingham Speed of America, Inc.' Our products will still be branded as Confederate Motorcycles, but our corporate name will reflect the name of our new hometown."
The 8,500 s.f. facility at 2222 Fifth Avenue South should be in operation by January 2006, when Confederate will resume assembly of the 2006 Hellcat F113, which sells for $67,500, and begin assembly of the 2006 Wraith B 107, with a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $55,000. Production goals for 2006 include at least 150 hand-crafted, high-end bikes for 2006, with that number expected to double in 2007, and grow to 900 motorcycles in 2008. The company's current backorder includes at least a dozen Hellcats and 45 Wraiths, representing a revenue stream of nearly $3.3 million.
"Our bikes are just fantastic," says Matt Chambers. "They are the most fun to ride and most expressive of a sense of individuality. This is what we are about - celebrating a sense of individuality and reasserting fundamental integrity back into American motorcycles. We are coming to Birmingham because we believe we can build very high quality, world-leading products in Birmingham with the resources here. New Orleans provided special inspiration for our earlier models, but the amazing collection of motorcycles in the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum will provide so much more inspiration. And Birmingham is blessed with good climate - good year 'round riding climate. We took a lot of time to make this decision as a team, and we all know we made the right decision."
For more information about Confederate motorcycles, visit the company's website at www.confederate.com.