Arkansas Manufacturing Sees More Stability in 2012

by Kate Knable  on Monday, Feb. 4, 2013 12:00 am  

Poultry producer Wayne Farms LLC bought a poultry feed mill in Atkins (Pope County) in September to accommodate future growth of the company. Wayne Farms operates a 90,000-SF complex in Danville with a processing facility, feed mill and hatchery.

And an announcement last Tuesday that Big River Steel LLC plans to build a $1.1 billion steel mill in Osceola (Mississippi County) was big news for Arkansas manufacturing. Big River said the Osceola mill would directly employ 525 people.

And poultry company O.K. Industries Inc. in Fort Smith gained 481 employees, an increase of 30 percent since January 2012.

“We’ve increased production and there’s been some lines actually added,” said O.K. spokeswoman Christine Terry.

Mixed News

In poultry and in some other sectors, 2012 was something of a mixed bag. The poultry companies Tyson, as noted previously; George’s Inc. of Springdale; and Butterball LLC, which has locations in five Arkansas towns, each maintained stable employment numbers.

However, another poultry purveyor, Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., reduced its Arkansas workforce by 119 people, a drop of about 5 percent.

A Pilgrim’s Pride spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the employment change.

The decreases in poultry jobs at Pilgrim’s Pride possibly came because feed prices were high “relative to the price that they could get for their finished product,” Deck said.

Other bad news included Hawker Beechcraft’s announcement in November that it would lay off 170 people from the company’s Little Rock Completions Center and Hawker Beechcraft Corp. in Wichita, Kan. Hawker planned to close its Hawker Beechcraft Services facility in Little Rock by the end of January.

On another sour note, Whirlpool Corp. closed its refrigerator manufacturing plant in Fort Smith, costing about 944 jobs.

To recover from the recession and other recent blows to manufacturing in Arkansas, Deck said, the state needs to make the most of its skilled workforce, location and natural resources.

“We still have a lot of capacity and the ability to serve those markets,” Deck said. “It’s just a matter of identifying them and making sure the investments get made here.”



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