Friday, August 09, 2013

TOP STORY>>Remington expands in Lonoke

Leader staff writer

The Remington Arms ammunition plant in Lonoke held a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday for a $32 million, 35,000-square-foot building. The expansion project, the first since the plant opened in 1969, will enable the company to increase ammunition production.

Remington will add around 50 to 100 skilled positions, with current Remington employees having the first opportunity to apply. The first production run is scheduled for June 2014. Remington has more than 1,000 employees in the state.

Remington makes ammunition day and night. The plant is producing more than 40 million rounds of ammunition each week.

Plant manager Jim Grahl-mann said the future demand for ammunition looks strong. The investment will increase capacity to meet the demands in the market.

Lemons Engineering Con-sultants of Cabot and Burns and McDonnell of Kansas City are working on the expansion project.

Gov. Mike Beebe and Sen. Mark Pryor spoke to local officials, elected leaders and Remington employees during the groundbreaking ceremony.

Beebe said the state is extremely happy about the expansion and the jobs will continue to stay and grow in the state.

“In our quest to attract new business, in our efforts to bring new industry, as we strive to provide new opportunities with new partners, we must never forget the ones we already have. Too many times we see people in other parts of the country, we see our sister states that forget to, as notorious Texas coach Darrell Royal use to say, ‘Dance with the one that brung us.’”

“We want to ensure we don’t forget our long-standing corporate citizens, who have been employers and contributors to our economy over some lengthy period of time,” he said.

“It is so much easier to expand existing businesses than it is to create new ones. It is so much more loyal to remember your friends that have invested with you over the years than to ignore them as you try to chase some new suitor,” Beebe said.

“This is an example of progress by a long-standing corporate partner in the state of Arkansas who we never forget and will never forget. Manufacturing has been outsourced in many places. While the emphasis is of the new jobs of tomorrow — high-tech opportunities and research and development — Arkansas never gives up on the cornerstone that made America great. That is manufacturing,” Beebe said.

“If you can’t make stuff as a people, you’ve got a problem. We can make things in America with the best of them,” the governor added.

Beebe said incentives, geography, logistic and infrastructure are important, but the most important factor in a location of a business is the quality of the workforce. He credited the employees for the expansion.

Sen. Mark Pryor said, “Fall is a great hunting season in Arkansas. Shortly various seasons open and people like me will take their son hunting.”

He said hunters will go out with friends. It is a part of the culture in the state.

“When I’m out there hunting this fall and winter months, I’ll be using a Remington product. I have a Remington shotgun and always buy Reming-ton shells. This is because of you all. This state is very proud of Remington. We’re proud of what you do here. Proud of what you stand for. Proud of your confidence in us, and we really appreciate it,” Pryor continued.

“I think everyone here thinks Remington made the right choice to invest once again in Arkansas. They know here in Arkansas we have a great climate to do business. The workforce is key to that,” Pryor said.

“We in Arkansas are committed to good jobs for our people and we are committed to having manufacturing in our state. It’s something we are proud of and believe in and that is one of things I constantly fight for in Washington. I’m looking forward to the next expansion,” Pryor said.

After the groundbreaking ceremony, Pryor toured the plant with operations manager Roger Lynch. The senator saw how ammunition was made from start to finished product and packaged. He also shook hands and spoke with employees as they were working on the factory lines.

“It was great. I toured the plant eight years ago. It’s busy here,” Pryor said.

George Kollitides, chief executive officer of Freedom Group that owns Remington, said during the ceremony the plant expansion was “about Lonoke, it’s about the people here and the great workforce we have here.”

He said Remington has received a lot of support from local representatives and the chamber of commerce.

Lonoke Chamber of Com-merce director John Garner said, “We know Remington is going to be here. This investment solidifies the future for them and Lonoke.”

Garner said the expansion “brings in new, higher-paying jobs and enables Remington to catch up on orders they are behind on. It’s a big boost for the economy not only in Lonoke but central Arkansas.”

The expansion may also help ease the shortages of ammunition on store shelves and backorders caused by high demand from consumers.

Cabot Police Department spokesman Sgt. Keith Graham told The Leader, “We are having trouble getting it, and we’re a police agency. All the manufacturers are short-handed.”

“We ordered ammo in the beginning of spring and are not sure if we will have enough ammunition for qualifications and practice in the fall,” Graham said.

Graham said the ammunition shortage does not affect daily police duties, only training.

According to an article posted on the National Shooting Sports Foundation website, the shortage of ammunition is caused by strong consumer demand that manufacturers are unable to meet. The article said demand is being fueled by the “prevalence of scare-mongering rumors on the Internet.”