Southworth expansion will create new jobs

Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Speakers at the Southworth Inc. expansion announcement are, from left: Mississippi County Judge Randy Carney; AEDC Executive Director Mike Preston; President-Southworth International Group, Inc. Brian McNamara; Mississippi County Economic Developer Clif Chitwood; Manila Mayor Wayne Wagner; Director of Manufacturing -- Southworth International Group, Inc. Kerry Pugh.

Southworth Products Corporation announced plans on Wednesday, Jan. 6, to expand its manufacturing facility in Manila creating approximately 35 new jobs. The company plans to invest $935,000 in the expansion.

Southworth, an established company with over 125 years, is a global manufacturer of ergonomic material handling equipment. Southworth is going into its 36th year in Manila.

"Since moving a couple of product lines down from the Northeast in 1979 into an existing 10,000 square foot facility, we have steadily increased our local footprint to well over 150,000 square feet and now conduct all North American production in Mississippi County, Arkansas," Southworth CEO Brian McNamara said.

Clif Chitwood, Mississippi County economic developer, welcomed everyone saying of the over 2,000 jobs the county economic development has helped with over the last 10 years over half have been created in existing industries.

"Our county likes doing business here," Chitwood said. "It speaks well on both sides. Southworth is one of the pillars of Mississippi County's industrial base for manufacturing providing jobs and livelihood for many families over the years."

Manila Mayor Wayne Wagner praised Chitwood for the work he does throughout the county.

"I used to say you could travel Arkansas and Clif is well known, but now he is world known," Mayor Wagner said."

Mayor Wagner called the expansion an example of city, county and state all working well together.

"It is a proud day for me," Mayor Wagner said. "I want to recognize Manila Industries for all they do. I'm getting to reap the harvest of others before me. As former Mayor Clifford Veach said over 30 years ago, we are so proud to have Southworth here. I appreciate the family atmosphere at Southworth."

Mississippi County Judge Randy Carney addressed the group calling the announcement a great day for Southworth and a great day for the county.

Judge Carney said Southworth is the second oldest industry in Mississippi County.

"We appreciate the quality and quantity of Southworth's impact to the county. I appreciate Kerry Pugh, director of manufacturing here. He has given me tours of the facility. I still don't know exactly what you do, but I know you do it well. We appreciate the confidence of Southworth President Brian McNamara in making more investment in Mississippi County. We will continue to grow together with Southworth growing, Manila growing, and Mississippi County growing. It is a great partnership with the city, county, state and Southworth. I just want to say congratulations to Southworth," Carney said.

Mike Preston, chairman of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said he was glad to be back in Mississippi County.

"This is my fourth visit in Mississippi County in my eight months on the job," Preston said.

Preston praised Chitwood for the work he does for Mississippi County.

"Economic Development is a team sport," Preston said. "This shows city, county, state and Southworth all coming together. As a result of the teamwork we are here today to talk about expansion of 35 jobs and a capital investment of almost $1 million."

"We need to brag about Arkansas," Preston said. "Southworth is a perfect example of a company to brag about and be proud of. Southworth is the world's largest manufacturer of ergonomic material handling equipment. You have a world-wide leader right here in Manila. That is something to brag about."

Preston said he and Governor Hutchinson love to talk about Southworth and other companies in the state that continue to grow.

He went on to call Southworth a good cooperate steward giving back to the community. Employees logged more than 1,200 hours volunteering for a variety of community projects and giving monetary donations.

"We are on the right path moving forward," Preston said. "This is the first announcement of the new year and this is a great start for the year. Let's continue to create new jobs. Thank you for letting us be part of the project."

McNamara expressed his appreciation to everyone for sharing in the day.

"I want to thank the guy who came before me, McNamara said. "He came from Maine in 1979 looking for a central location for the nationwide market. He hooked up with AIDC and they selected Manila in the old Jim Berry building where cotton trailers were once built."

He said Southworth has had a tremendous support from the community and state.

We have branched out in Manila and we are in Leachville," McNamara said. "This building was the largest project. It has been a tremendous partnership. This particular program is all about jobs. We love hiring. We only hire when we are growing."

He said partners like the AEDC block grant program makes the risk easier.

"We look forward to more growth here," McNamara said.

Kerry Pugh organized plant tours following the meeting.

"We are hiring today," Pugh said. "We have created jobs for years here and look forward to more."

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