Next week, Donald Trump will go to the small town of Keene, Texas, and cut the ribbon on a brand-new, 100,000-square-foot Louis Vuitton workshop called the Louis Vuitton Rochambeau Ranch. It’s an unlikely location for the Parisian house to open a workshop, for sure. The president will tour the workshop and give a speech about job creation, a White House official confirmed with the Fort Worth Star Telegram. LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault and more than 150 Louis Vuitton employees will join Trump, Ivanka and Jared Kushner, and former Texas governor Rick Perry at the ribbon cutting.
Why did Louis Vuitton move into a small Texan town? A release from the company said it was to “meet the ever-growing demand for Louis Vuitton products in the American market.” The company also signed the Pledge to America’s Workers, a Trump administration initiative to bring “better jobs that deliver bigger paychecks” to American workers. Rolex, Volvo, and Walmart are other brands that have pledged to bring jobs to America under the initiative.
The workshop will be 256 acres, located off a county road close to Keene, which has a population of 6,300. Louis Vuitton bought the land from a Dallas surgeon and a dude ranch known as Rocking Z Ranch. The release said it would create approximately 1,000 jobs over five years; currently, the workshop has 150 employees. The leather-goods workshop will train workers on leather-goods craftsmanship — something Louis Vuitton knows a thing or two about. Louis Vuitton has two workshops in California as well, so the Rochambeau Ranch is not the first American outpost for the brand’s production. The bags will carry “Made in the USA” labels, but the leather will be processed elsewhere and won’t be made from Texan cattle.
The residents of Johnson County were less than thrilled when they found out that Louis Vuitton was planning on moving to their turf. Some feared that the jobs would be low-paying — one local opponent said the company could only pay about $8 an hour, citing development documents. But Louis Vuitton is also getting a pretty sweet deal. In 2017, Johnson County approved a ten-year, 75 percent tax abatement, which is the maximum allowed by the county and amounts to about $91,900 in tax cuts a year.
County commissioners unanimously approved Louis Vuitton’s tax abatement and zoning request in October 2017. The commissioners’ meeting to approve the request was unusually busy, as many who opposed the project came. The Cleburne Times-Review wrote at the time, “The usually empty courtroom was packed courtesy of numerous residents opposed to Louis Vuitton’s plans to open a Johnson County facility, or at least opposed to Louis Vuitton setting up shop in their neck of the woods.” One resident, April Dunn, said at the meeting, “We have to pay taxes. So should Louis Vuitton. As this issue stands at this very moment, those of us opposed to Louis Vuitton feel like our elected officials have abandoned us for business.”
Local proponents of the workshop say it will act as a stimulus to the country town. The town has already received over $1 million to repair the county road where the workshop is located. The third richest man in the world and the president will celebrate the opening this Thursday.