Above, a robotic bagging system at Fiber Energy weighs and packs bags of pellets onto pallets.
Large manufacturing plants employing hundreds of people seem to be a thing of the past, a sign of global patterns that are probably beyond the scope of local officials to change.
Cheaper labor and fewer environmental regulations outside the U.S. make it more difficult for communities to attract a large industry, especially in an isolated area like Stone County, County Judge Stacey Avey explained. However, Mountain View is home to smaller industries that are thriving and even expanding, and Avey thinks that’s healthy for the local economy.
“We’ve got several small industries with not huge employment, and that’s a good thing because we have a sufficient number of people to supply the work, and it doesn’t hurt you as bad if one closes,” he said.
Two buildings that were left empty by the departure of longtime local employers are now home to growing industries. Fiber Energy Products bought the former Conestoga Wood Specialties plant and has expanded to use all its facilities. The building that was formerly Blanchard Shirt Factory and Aromatique is now home to Excel Boats, a thriving company that has plans to expand and add jobs.
Excel Boats is located on Blanchard Avenue, near the Stone County Sheriff’s Departmemt. The county owns the building and is working to help the company expand its facility. Avey met last week with representatives of Excel, Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), White River Planning and Development, and Stone County Area Industrial Development Corporation (SCAIDC).
The county recently secured a grant of $200,000 to go toward the expansion, and officials expect AEDC to provide more money, but it is not known yet how much or whether it will be a grant or loan.
Details of the expansion will depend on funding, but Excel Boats Manager D.J. Speer said they hope to add about 30,000 square feet.
See complete story in the Dec. 28, 2016 issue.