Sakai is moving production of the SW774 asphalt compactor to the Georgia factory. Photo: Sakai

More than a century ago, Sakai set up its first factory in Japan making and repairing steam train engines. As of this May, Georgia has now officially been part of one-fifth of that history.  

Specializing in rollers, which compact asphalt and soil on construction sites and roadways being built, Sakai America celebrated 20 years at its Bartow County plant last month. 

Sakai employs 50 people at a 97,000-square-foot facility across two buildings in Adairsville. The complex includes a 175-foot-long assembly line that is soon to add the SW774 model to the four already made at the plant, according to a news release.  

“That machine is currently made in Japan by our parent company, but we’re excited to have another model to assemble here in the U.S.,” said Kevin McClain, vice president of Sakai America, who was part of the team selecting the site in 2000 and launching operations in 2001. It had taken Sakai 25 years from its products’ entry in the U.S. in 1976 to set up its own plant near other Japanese firms in northwest Georgia.  

In the ensuing 20 years, the Adairsville factory has assembled 3,500 of the machines — churning out one every two days or so on average.  

That rate could increase if the Biden infrastructure funding plan comes through, according to the Rome News-Tribune, which reported that Sakai is already aiming to triple its 5 percent market share in the United States in the coming years. More investment in roadways would make contractors more likely to invest in modernizing their equipment fleets.

According to the report, the company plans to make 230 rollers in Georgia this year.  

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...