Ashland-based Brammo Inc. is a step closer to expanding its local headquarters and bringing up to 200 additional employees to town.

Ashland-based Brammo Inc. is a step closer to expanding its local headquarters and bringing up to 200 additional employees to town.

The Ashland Planning Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved the company's plan to build a pair of two-story buildings and a private dirt test track for its electric motorcycles.

"It's very exciting to see our growth here in Ashland, and it will be great having our initial production close in hand," said Craig Bramscher, company founder and chief executive officer. "Anything we make that should go in the dirt will probably be developed here."

The buildings at 777 Jefferson Ave. will house research, design, warehousing, administrative offices and the manufacturing of prototypes for Brammo, known for its award-winning Enertia, water-cooled Empulse and the Engage, a six-speed dirt bike. The buildings likely will replace Brammo's current headquarters on Clover Lane, Bramscher said.

Bramscher said the expansion will bump the company's number of local employees to 200 or 250 from about 40 now. About 20 percent of the additional workers will be hired locally.

He said most of the staff will be transferred from outside the community to further Brammo's off-road electric vehicle development, which has become an emphasis of the company since Minnesota-based off-road and powersports vehicle maker Polaris Industries acquired $28 million worth of Brammo stock last October.

Brammo's Encite and Engage models of electric dirt bikes and any new all-terrain electric vehicle concepts it introduces will be designed in Ashland, Bramscher said. Currently, the company does most of its off-road prototype work at a facility in Italy, he said.

"I think it's a great-looking project, and an asset to the city," said planning Commissioner Mike Church.

Last September, Brammo purchased a chain of 16 European racetracks exclusively used by electric dirt bikes, which it renamed BrammoParx. By the end of 2013, the company hopes to open 100 similar parks in metropolitan areas across the U.S., said Bramscher.

The 2.5-acre test track approved for Ashland will likely serve as a prototype track for BrammoParx in the U.S., he said. The company will use the downsized track in Ashland for demonstrating the potential of a full-scale park to potential investors, he said.

He said he would like to have the new buildings, which will measure 14,857 and 18,805 square feet, operational in seven to eight months. The company is still searching for a builder and working to secure a loan to fund the project, so it may be a year, Bramscher said.

Brammo eventually plans to develop an additional building on top of where the test track will lie, Bramscher said.

Most members of the Planning Commission expressed concern over dust created from the test track and its effect on nearby businesses, but Bramscher assured them the track would stay maintained and watered to prevent the electric motorcycles and other all-terrain EVs from kicking up bothersome dust.

"Our intent is, and has always been, to be a good neighbor," said Bramscher. "There hasn't been a problem at all with the dust at our tracks in Europe. "… If the dust becomes a problem, we'll find a solution."

Primarily, the track will be used only for EVs, but Bramscher said the company might run a gas-powered motorcycle on the track a few times each year for less than an hour for comparison purposes.

Sam Wheeler is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.