Star Waggons: A Star for the Local Economy
If Star Waggons’ Jason Waggoner had his way, celebrities would say “I’ll be in my Star Waggon” instead of, “I’ll be in my trailer.” Started by Jason’s father, Lyle Waggoner, in the early 1980s, Star Waggons is a local manufacturing and equipment rental powerhouse with an impressive fleet of over 800 custom-built film trailers. That’s right, the bulk of the fleet is built right here in our back yard. Star Waggons’ products are ubiquitous on movie lots across Southern California, and for a single company, the impact Star Waggons has on the local economy is massive. Last week, Film Works staffers took a trip to the company’s San Fernando Valley headquarters in Sylmar to get a sense of the company’s footprint firsthand.
According to Jason Waggoner, Star Waggons now employs roughly 100 people to build, lease and maintain the company’s massive fleet. Waggoner said employee turnover is low and the company “strives to foster a family atmosphere.”
Each month, Star Waggons manufactures or refurbishes between four to eight of its iconic film set trailers. On the more expensive side are the 45-foot makeup trailers, which cost upwards of $350,000 to build. On the inexpensive end are the multi-cast trailers, which still cost between $40-$60,000 to produce.
Building and maintaining Star Waggons’ massive fleet delivers a huge trickle down impact in the local and state economy. At Lakeside’s Bay City Electronic Works, Star Waggons spends roughly $200,000 annually to equip its trailers with the latest and greatest gadgets and electronics. The company’s local gas bill tops $250,000 annually, and that’s just to keep the Star Waggons vehicle fleet running.
A partial list of some of the California-based vendors Star Waggons supports through the purchase of goods and services include:
Like many California-grown film industry suppliers, Star Waggons has branched out with satellite operations in other states, namely Louisiana and New Mexico. But company head Waggoner recently told Film Works he’d prefer to see the entertainment industry stay here in California:
We have been here for more than 30 years, and we want a thriving business in Los Angeles. Our business plan calls for us to be able to serve our clients with the same excellent service and products wherever a television and film production chooses to film… We view ourselves as a nationwide company offering quality services wherever our equipment in needed, but let’s not kid ourselves, we would love to see the business stay here in California near our main manufacturing and repair facilities.
Waggoner also told Film Works that California does not need to match “the absurd incentives” being given out in other states. All that is needed, Waggoner maintains, is for California to realize it does need to remain competitive:
I was born and raised here in Los Angeles and know that as much as other states want to boast about being the “new” Hollywood, the truth is that nobody can do it better than the talented crews based right here in Los Angeles….[W]e do need to remain competitive instead of arrogantly thinking that this business won’t continue to follow the buck. It is business, after all.
We agree wholeheartedly. It’s easy to take for granted the many innovative companies and quality jobs the film industry has created throughout California — and in particular in greater Los Angeles. Film Works exists, in part, to remind us what we stand to lose if we continue down the path we’ve been on. Thank you, Star Waggons, for helping us spread the word.
Film Works for California. Let’s keep it here.