Tuesday, April 08, 2014

TOP STORY >> Lonoke honors its best with eye toward future

Leader staff writer

Expanding boundaries with Remington Arms being the center of growth was the theme of the Lonoke Chamber of Commerce banquet at the Gina Cox Center on Friday.

Last year, Remington broke ground on a $35 million expansion, adding a 74,000-square-foot manufacturing facility to the grounds.

Brett Stovall project manager for the new facility said, “We are not relocating. It has been an outstanding relationship with Lonoke community.”

In 1969, Remington Arms built its $25 million ammunition plant in Lonoke, employing 1,200 people.

Stovall said Remington is in the process of receiving new equipment and hiring personnel for the new facility.

“We have a huge need for talent. To hire personnel for the new expansion we’ve gone to Houston, Texas; Norfolk, Va., and San Diego, Calif. We have career fairs set up in Jacksonville,” Stovall said.

“We are hurting for electricians, machinists and mechanics. We are having a hard time finding talented individuals. Our wage rates are between $15 and $20 per hour. It is a shame we have to look so far for talented employees,” Stovall said.

“We need to work together with the communities of Lonoke, Cabot and others, and develop a partnership or co-op to finding talented high school seniors and put them in mechanical trades and hire them on at Remington Arms. We are not going anywhere. We have about 1,300 employees; 57 have over 40 years of service,” Stovall said.

He said, for the expansion Remington is hiring maintenance specialists and manufacturing technicians.

The company has hired 20 employees for the new facility.

Stovall asked that those who know retired service members send them to Remington.

“Get them in touch with us. We need to get our hands on their resumes,” Stovall said.

Lt. Col. Dawson Brum-below, chief of safety with the 19th Airlift Wing at the Little Rock Air Force Base, informed the banquet attendees about the base and its community connections.

He said, during 2013, LRAFB air crews, maintainers and logistics personnel supported operations flying 16,000 combat missions in about 43 missions per day. They spent 13,000 hours transporting over 150,000 passengers and airlifting 73,000 tons of cargo worldwide. Around 250 LRAFB airmen are deployed around the world.

“None of those missions could have come off the way they had without the partnership we’ve got with our community. The partnership began in the 1950s when the local landowners donated the land to become LRAFB,” Brumbelow said.

He said Team Little Rock is made up of base agencies, nearby communities, active-duty soldiers, Reserve and Guardsmen.

Brumbelow said the strength of the community bond showed when a tornado on April 2011 cut a 5-mile path across the base from North Pulaski High School. He said, within 30 minutes, the mayors and civic leaders were at the base to offer a hand and show their support.

Honored during the banquet were:

• Citizen of the Year Leanna Rich, who was also outgoing chamber president.

• Educator of the Year was Phyllis Elam, Lonoke High School environmental and spatial technology facilitator. Elam has taught at Lonoke for 35 years.

• Order of the Oak Tree for individuals deeply rooted in community involvement went to retired farmer Joe Wilson.

• The Lonoke Acorn Award for those who start young and grow into a pillar of the community was presented to deacon John Harris Jr. He joined the chamber in 2012 and was a board member 2013.

• Lonoke High School senior Tori Lackey, a Future Business Leader of America member, was awarded the chamber’s $750 scholarship.

• Senior Katie Rhoden was awarded the $500 chamber intern scholarship.

• The Lonoke Quorum Court gave proclamations to the Lonoke School District for hosting the state’s 4A basketball tournament at the Gina Cox Center and for the Lonoke men’s basketball team reaching the semifinals.