Arkansas Manufacturers Appear To Be Experiencing Slight Upswing

Though few manufacturing companies responded to Arkansas Business' manufacturing survey, most that did reported they either gained employees in the past year or the number of their employees remained constant. Only a few reported losses.

(Click here to see a PDF of the list of the largest manufacturers. Click here for the spreadsheet version.) 

For those that did not respond, Arkansas Business relied on the most recent state government estimates available.   

Reports of an increase in employees are consistent with manufacturing employment trends, based on information from the state Department of Workforce Services. In December, the DWS reported that, in year-over-year numbers, jobs in manufacturing rose by 4,800 to 81,900. From the previous month, jobs in durable goods manufacturing remained the same, while nondurable goods manufacturing saw a loss of 400 jobs.

The year-over-year gain of manufacturing jobs was seen entirely in durable goods manufacturing, which, according to the DWS, was related to "reported expansions and hiring."

The Federal Reserve Bank at St. Louis in its January "Beige Book" report of economic activity in the Fed's 8th District, which includes Arkansas, also found that manufacturing was in an upswing. According to the report, manufacturing firms in the automobile and automobile parts, plastic products, glass, furniture, sanitary paper products and food industries reported plans to expand existing operations as well as hire new employees. The report also said that household appliance and paper manufacturing industries reported plans to open new facilities within the 8th District and to hire new employees. 

On a national scale, manufacturing seems to be making a comeback as well. A government survey found that manufacturing added 49,000 jobs in manufacturing in January the most since August 1998.


Companies Report Gains

Looking to the list, Simmons Foods reported an additional 137 employees for 2011. Kimmie Provost, a spokeswoman for Simmons, said that the company added another shift at one of its facilities, which accounted for the additional employees.

Georgia-Pacific, too, seems to be making a bit of a comeback. Last year, the company reported a loss of about 700 jobs from the year previous, almost 350 of which were related to the shuttering of a Fordyce plywood plant. This year, the company reported a gain of 200 jobs, some of which may be related to the company's November announcement that its Crossett location had been selected to receive a technological upgrade.

Superior Industries International Inc., a Van Nuys, Calif., aluminum wheel manufacturer with locations in Rogers and Fayetteville, reported 1,252 employees, up from an estimated 650 employees from last year. A representative from the company did not return a call seeking comment regarding the increase, but the increase in employees is consistent with the January "Beige Book" report that automobile and automobile parts manufacturing firms had reported expansions and hiring.

Husqvarna Forestry Products, on the other hand, lost about 750 jobs, likely related to the consolidation of its two Arkansas locations. In 2009, Husqvarna announced plans to relocate the production of its De Queen facility to its Nashville (Howard County) facility. The consolidation, which was scheduled for the "second half of 2010," according to a company release, was meant to keep the De Queen facility open as a warehouse.

In December, news organization Write for Arkansas reported that those plans had been scrapped, and that the De Queen facility would be completely shut down, contributing to the loss of company jobs.