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Louis Vuitton Sets Up Shop in Small-Town Texas

From Texas Standard:

Keene, a small Texas town southwest of Dallas, will soon be home to a new 256-acre leather workshop for the French luxury brand Louis Vuitton. President Donald Trump will cut the ribbon during the grand opening this week. 

New York Magazine reporter Sarah Spellings says this all came about through Trump’s Pledge to America’s Workers initiative, which was intended to bring more and higher-paying jobs to the U.S.  Keene beat out a North Carolina town to be the location for what Louis Vuitton is calling Rochambeau Ranch. 

The company plans to employ about 1,000 people over five years. One hundred and fifty employees have been working in the Rochambeau Ranch facility for about two years. After the ribbon cutting, they’ll continue to construct handbags out of leather imported from outside Texas.

“Louis Vuitton is all about their leather goods,” Spellings says. “Louis Vuitton started as a luggage brand, and it’s really amazing that they’re bringing this workshop to Texas because it really is the hallmark of their brand.”

Louis Vuitton signed Trump’s pledge, not its parent company LVMH Moët Hennessy. So Spellings says only Louis Vuitton leather goods, and not products for LVMH’s other brands like Fendi or Christian Dior, will be manufactured at Rochambeau Ranch. Johnson County is also giving the company a 10-year, 75% tax abatement for the project.

Little is known about how Keene residents feel about the new facility. But Spellings says early on, residents were nervous about such a massive workshop with a large tax break being built in their small town.

“When the tax abatements were approved, the locals did not seem to take to it very well,” Spellings says. “You can read in the Cleburne Times-Review or in some other local papers, some people were saying 'We have to pay taxes; so should Louis Vuitton if they’re coming to our turf.'”

Spellings says she’s unsure whether Rochambeau Ranch was an opportunity for Louis Vuitton to curry favor with the Trump administration. Either way, it will be another step toward bringing industry to rural Texas. And Spellings says expansion of its operations in the U.S. could be a result of growing domestic demand for Louis Vuitton products.

“This won’t be their first American factory or American workshop,” Spellings says. “They have two in California, I believe, so it does seem like this is to meet American demand as well.” 

This story was updated to correct that the grand opening of Rochambeau Ranch is this week, not next week.

Written by Savana Dunning.

Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.