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Mystery manufacturer finally coming to Fulton County?

Friday, April 13, 2012

A manufacturer of wrappers and containers for the fast food industry may soon open in the vacant Salem Plastics building in the Salem Industrial Park. The company, which originally planned to move to an old shirt factory building on Mize Street, has been in talks to relocate in Fulton County for nearly two years. An announcement will be made when the company is ready to accept job applications. It must, first, set up its equipment and prepare the plant for production. Photo by Richard Irby [Order this photo]
After nearly two years of promises, it appears that an Arkansas business owner may finally be in the process of moving to Salem to create some jobs.

But the owner and the business remain cloaked in mystery.

Back in the summer of 2010, the owner indicated he did not want his company named because he had not informed the community where his plant was located of his plans to move.

"He's still not ready to go public," County Judge Charles Willett told The News in early March. "But he is in the process of moving his equipment here, and will soon be hiring. He will probably start with eight or ten jobs, but his intention is to eventually hire about 50 people."

Willett was contacted by the company in May of 2010, after the owner saw a Salem industrial building on the Arkansas Economic Development Commission web site. The man was looking for a place to move his established Arkansas business, and was interested in the old shirt factory building on Mize Road in Salem, next to Burch's Custom Butchering.

After a visit to Fulton County and discussions with Judge Willett, it looked like the business would soon be in operation in Salem.

In June of 2010, Mayor Gary Clayton discussed the company's plans with the Salem City Council.

"The company manufactures wrapping materials and packaging for the restaurant industry and the fast food industry," Clayton said. "They make things like burger wrappers and to-go bags. They've been in business a long time and are a family operation."

According to Clayton, the owner was looking for housing in the area, planning to move equipment and seek applicants for five employees, with 10 to 15 to be added in the future.

The Salem Industrial Development Commission (SIDC), which had control over the shirt factory building, agreed to get it ready for the new business. The roof was repaired. The exterior of the building was painted, and, later, the interior was painted, at the request of the business owner. The parking lot was graveled and other improvements were made, but the company's plan for a fall 2010 opening never materialized.

Judge Willett explained the business relocation was on-hold, because the owner's son had died in an accident. The owner assured the Judge he still planned to move to Salem, but he would be delayed because of personal and businesses problems related to his son's death.

Months later, the still- unidentified company owner is now moving printing presses and other equipment to Salem, but he will apparently not be using the upgraded shirt factory building.

The company plans to set up shop in the former Salem Plastics factory, a much larger and more modern building, in the Salem Industrial Park.

Because state funds were used to assist the failed plastics plant to obtain the property, the state took the building back, and it has been in the hands of the Arkansas Development Finance Authority. The building has been in the state's inventory of vacant industrial buildings economic development officials can offer as they try to recruit new businesses to Arkansas or help existing businesses expand.

According to Mayor Clayton, several years ago, community leaders sought to obtain possession of the building, so that they could try to market it, in an effort to create local jobs. At that time, the state wanted hundreds of thousands of dollars to turn over control of the facility -- which tax records value at $751,368.

Last winter, however, the state was more cooperative when contacted by city officials.

"We sold the building for $50,000," Charlie Lynch, a loan officer for the Development Finance Authority told The News. "Senior management approved the sale to give the county a better opportunity to seek new business and create new jobs. It gives the county (Fulton County) a much better tool to use, and it can deal directly with prospects, instead of having to go through the state."

According to Lynch, a closing in January gave ownership of the property to the Fulton County Public Facilities Board.

Instead of marketing the building, Judge Willett said the public facilities board has decided to allow the unnamed fast food packaging manufacturer to lease the 34,820 square foot building. The lease terms are currently being worked out.

The smaller shirt factory building was apparently large enough to meet the company's 2010 business plan. So, does locating in the larger industrial facility mean it will be hiring more than the five to 15 Fulton County area workers, as originally proposed?

According to Judge Willett, the company plans to eventually offer as many as 50 positions -- as the company gets new business.

"His (the owner's) daughter has offered to get involved and help him build his business back up," Willett said in March.

Latest word from the judge is, the owner will not start accepting applications until his equipment is installed, and the operation is up and running -- a process that is just beginning.

According to the Judge, a public announcement will be made when the company is ready to take applications, and the owner is asking for time to finish his preparations without being disturbed by applicants.

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If he's concerned about being "bothered" by potential applicants, why doesn't he just go through workforce services like employers in larger cities do? If applicants know they are moving in, they will stop anyway. Sounds like a little more transparency is needed. Especially in light of the other story which ran above this one in the print edition.

-- Posted by ask_questions on Fri, Apr 13, 2012, at 8:50 AM

Don't be cocky. You can't imagine whats involved in moving a company.

-- Posted by Basser on Mon, Apr 16, 2012, at 11:03 AM

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