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Manufacturing Success in Western Arkansas

Western Arkansas crafts a diverse and dynamic manufacturing sector

By Bill Lewis on July 30, 2018

Fort Smith, AR
Fort Smith / Courtesy of Nidec Motor Corporation/Michael Jacob Photo

With its deep pool of skilled talent, superior transportation infrastructure and roster of notable companies with major operations in the region, the six-county Western Arkansas region is a hub of advanced manufacturing.

Polk County is the location of choice for Nidec Motor Corp. The company is a leading manufacturer of commercial, industrial and appliance motors and controls. The company’s motors are used in applications that include agriculture, commercial refrigeration, mining and metals, pools and spas, and central heating and cooling systems.

Western Arkansas Offers Ideal Climate for Growth

The advantages of being located in Mena include a “workforce passionately motivated to exceed customer needs, exhibiting high levels of expertise, flexibility and cooperation [and a] highly supportive community with the University of Arkansas at Rich Mountain providing ongoing education and training needs,†says Mary Sawyer, the company’s spokesperson.

The Mena facility produces electric motors up to 5,000 horsepower and 6,900 volts and has proficiency in serving engineered-to-order applications. The plant has 347,000 square feet and currently employs 390 people, she says.

Western Arkansas is Epic Attraction for Mountain Bikers

In Fort Smith, Exide manufactures batteries that serve a wide range of applications, including serving as a source of backup power on U.S. Navy nuclear submarines. The company is working with the Navy on Project Neptune, which will enhance battery technology.

The region continues to be a destination for advanced manufacturers. Bekaert is investing $16 million in a 100,000-square-foot expansion of its wire production plant in Van Buren. The company is creating an estimated 40 new jobs.

Other manufacturers are growing, as well. Silgan Holdings Inc., a leading supplier of rigid packaging for consumer products, is building a new manufacturing facility in Fort Smith.

The company is investing an estimated $38 million in a 100,000-square-foot facility. It expects to create 150 jobs.

“The warm welcome from both state and local authorities make us confident we have chosen the right location to serve our customers. We look forward to extending the Silgan family in the Fort Smith community,†says Robert Lewis, Silgan executive vice president and chief financial officer.

Western Arkansas Colleges Keep Talent Flowing to Regional Industries

International companies have found a home in the region, with manufacturing operations that include Belgium-based Bekaert, Brazilian steel manufacturer Geradu in Fort Smith and Switzerland’s ABB, whose subsidiary Baldor Electric Co. has operations in Fort Smith, Ozark and other locations. The company manufactures aluminum die castings, grinders, drives, gears and other parts for electric motors and generators.

Famous Names

A number of manufacturers with easily recognized names have operations in the region. Rheem makes central heating and cooling units for commercial customers in Fort Smith. German gun manufacturer Walther Arms and Umarex, whose products include pellet guns and BB guns, have operations in the region. Walther, which has made sidearms for decades, is famous as the maker of the gun carried by fictional secret agent James Bond.

Western Arkansas Enjoys a Growing Food and Beverage Industry

Stark Manufacturing in Paris makes aluminum headers for automotive air conditioners. Rockline, one of the largest global producers of consumer products specializing in wet wipes and coffee filters, has operations in Logan County.

Applied Process, a worldwide leader in austempering heat treatment technology, chose Fort Smith as the location of its new multi-million dollar heat treatment plant. The facility is designed to have 51,000 square feet of space and six furnaces. The company announced the creation of at least 30 jobs.

 “The additional capacity in Fort Smith will allow us to continue to offer industry-leading levels of customer service, quality and turn time. The new facility will allow us to expand into new markets and serve a broader geographic customer base,†says Steve Metz, Applied Process’ vice president of sales and marketing.

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