Fort Smith has long been Arkansas’ leading manufacturing hub. The city produces more manufactured goods than any other area of the state, housing big-name companies such as Mars Petcare, Hytrol Conveyor Co. Inc., Tyson Foods Inc. and Owens Corning. Fort Smith’s standing as the second-largest city in Arkansas is largely credited to the number of manufacturing companies, as they are attracted to the area due to its proximity to significant transportation lines such as Interstate 40 and the Arkansas River.
Mars Petcare of Franklin, Tennessee, entered the Fort Smith manufacturing scene in 2007 with its announcement to build an $80 million manufacturing plant. The facility originally employed 200 but has since announced additional expansions in 2016 and 2021. In 2021 alone, the company announced two expansion plans for the Fort Smith branch. January 2021 brought a 200,000-square-foot addition to the facility, along with two new production lines and an extra 120 jobs. In September, Mars announced plans to build a new warehouse and add 140 jobs to assist with expanded operations, according to an Arkansas Economic Development Commission news release. This expansion is expected to be completed in 2023.
Hytrol Conveyor Co. Inc.
Branching over from Jonesboro, Hytrol Conveyor Co. Inc. announced its expansion into Fort Smith in January 2021, taking 300,000-square-feet in the former Whirlpool facility. The company will invest $20 million and hire 250 over the next five years. This was the first time the company had expanded into a new location since its founding in 1962. Hytrol announced the opening of 100 jobs in September 2021 to help with the production of a new product. Like many other companies, Hytrol is battling significant inflation levels in 2022, with steel prices up more than 300% than usual. However, Hytrol and CEO David Peacock raised starting pay by 25%, setting them apart from other companies in the labor market.
Tyson Foods Inc.
Formed during the Great Depression, Tyson Foods of Springdale has a long standing presents in Fort Smith. Still going strong after over half a century, the company’s 2021 Quarter 3 and 4 earnings surpassed Wall Street’s expectations. Last year’s Q3 profit was up 42% at $749 million, while fourth-quarter income for fiscal 2021 was $1.36 billion. In recent months, Tyson has invested $1 million to help employees gain U.S. citizenship.
Hailing from Toledo, Ohio, Owens Corning announced its plan to build a 550,000-square-foot Fort Smith facility in February 2021. Already employing 79 people in the Fort Smith area over its three-decade period, this extension is expected to add five more jobs. The new site, scheduled for completion in mid-2023, will be adjacent to the company’s current facility.