Southeast: Central Moloney Thrives Through Flexibility

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, May. 23, 2011 12:00 am  

Like so many companies, Central Moloney Inc. has felt the blowback from the bursting housing bubble. But the Pine Bluff firm decided to position itself for the market rebound it says it knows is coming.

(Click here for a list of the largest private companies in southeast Arkansas.)

The company, founded in 1949 as Larkin Lectro Products Co., saw its revenue rise to $110 million in 2010, a 25 percent increase over the $88 million it reported in 2009, a sure sign that Central Moloney's tactics have achieved some success.

Central Moloney builds electric distribution transformers and their components at two sites in Pine Bluff. In March, it announced a $12 million 150,000-SF expansion adjacent to its current 400,000-SF transformer plant. The expansion is expected to create at least 200 jobs, and Chris Hart, vice president of personnel and community relations, calls that a conservative estimate. Central Moloney, headed by President and CEO Bo Siever, currently employs 550.

The company has five main transformer product lines, with most of those transformers used in new residential construction - new housing starts, in other words. "We were like the rest of the industry and we were feasting off of record new housing starts back in 2005 and also the huge backlog that was created in August of '05 from Hurricane Katrina," Hart said. That created essentially an 18-month backlog that lasted us well past the housing market starting to trend down."

And then the market fell right off the cliff.

With the backlog gone and housing starts plummeting, demand followed. Central Moloney worked hard to keep as many people working as possible, Hart said, and then it moved to "get creative."

"We decided that this was our time to move and capture ... as much of a market share as we possibly could, so during that time we began to branch out, to reach out, to offer larger units and to ingratiate ourselves in different ways with customers," Hart said. "And we increased our customer base and our market share."

Hart said that demand for the company's "three-phase" units, used in commercial and industrial applications, increased. Although houses weren't being built, shopping centers and apartment complexes were, and the company realized "there was still market to be had," he said. And it targeted that market.

"We wanted to be able to accommodate our customers by producing larger units that can handle higher voltages, and we have definitely made inroads when it comes to that," Hart said.

And that's where the announced expansion comes in.

The 62-year-old company has been adept through the years in evolving to meet customer needs. In its early years, as Larkin Lectro, the company primarily built welding equipment to meet the needs of the old Arkansas Power & Light Co., which at the time was based in Pine Bluff.



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