Thursday, December 15, 2011

Manufacturing Gives Arkansas a Reason to Celebrate this Holiday Season

New Millennium Building Systems, a maker
of steel joists, is one of several companies
adding employees to factories in Arkansas.
 It hasn't been the best of times for “The Natural State.”   Unemployment officially hit 8.3 percent back in August and like most Americans, its residents list the economy as the chief source of concern right now.

Look, I'm not going to sit here and profess some long-lasting bond with Arkansas.  Truth is the only connection I share with the state is that I used to room with a former Razorback drop-out who never cleaned the kitchen. 

However, I am very heartened to read about the local manufacturing there, which is showing some very promising signs of generating much needed jobs and revenue for the state.  Some important developments:

            -Unilever, maker of food, home care and personal products, announced it will spend $40 million to expand its plant based in Jonesboro, Ark, adding 125 jobs to the 400 already in place. 

            -After acquiring facilities from Commercial Metals in Hope, Arkansas last September, New Millennium Building Systems, which builds steel joists, has installed $4 million worth of equipment and hired 58 employees at its new location.  It hopes to hire 120 more as it reaches full capacity.

            -Arez LLC, an Irish-based printing ink resin company, is only a month away from completing construction of its new headquarters in Crossett, Arkansas.  Announced last year, the company is expected to create 121 jobs and receive a 3 percent payroll income tax credit for its employees the first five years.  

            -Last month, American Railcar announced it would hire 700 workers throughout Marmaduke and Paragould, Arkansas, as well as Kennett, Missouri.  The company needs more workers to construct around 1,000 completely new freight cars for the expanding natural gas industry in the region, as well as 30, 000 cars overall for the year.

            -The Fed's annual “Beige Book” economic report listed Arkansas as part of the key regions where manufacturing output increased.

Okay, so even with four companies moving to set up shop and the Fed listing Arkansas as a manufacturing hot spot, we've only knocked that unemployment number down to 8.27 percent. 

However, this story may be the best news yet for Arkansas:

            Four students from the University of Arkansas have launched a startup company around technology developed by University of Minnesota biochemist Simo Sarkanen that would produce biodegradable plastic shopping bags.

            ..."Our product will biodegrade in 150 days," says [Nhiem Cao, president and CEO of       cycleWood Solutions]. "Instead of having a growing problem, the problem will gradually go away."
                    Daily News, Oct. 17, 2011

A homegrown start-up that wants to stay home, is environmental friendly, and has potential to skyrocket in demand (I can literally pull off the internet hundreds of community retail businesses in the city of Los Angeles that would order something like this in a heartbeat) is a light at the end of the tunnel. 

It may only be as bright as a match, and that tunnel may be the Bobby Hopper, but if it takes off, it bodes well for Arkansas's future employment opportunities.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Rotor Clip plans to export retaining rings to China.

Rotor Clip Gears up to Export; Other Companies Bring Jobs Home

It sounds like a cliché to say we should be thankful for what we have this holiday season. But it happens to be true for US manufacturing. 2011 was truly a turning point for a once beleaguered sector of our economy many saw as down for the count.

Rotor Clip, a manufacturer of retaining rings and related products (and the creator of this blog) is poised to begin exporting to China. You heard it right…exporting.  It appears there is a need for a volume producer of retaining rings who can also guarantee quality. That’s where we come in and we are looking forward to shipping full container loads of our products East for a change.

Here are some other notable events that have taken place in 2011 for the US manufacturing sector:

·         Ford Motor Company recently announced it will invest $128 million in a northeast Ohio assembly plant, and by 2013 medium-duty truck production will be moved here from General Escobedo, Mexico, near Monterrey. "What's a better Christmas present than hearing about this,” said Ohio Governor John Kasich. He said Ford's announcement showed a positive trend for manufacturing.—Manufacturing. Net—12/6/11
·         The State of Maine is open for business and is actively rebuilding its manufacturing base. This conclusion was reached as hundreds of former millworkers in northern Penobscot County recently learned they will have mill jobs once again. The mill was resurrected through the collaborative effort of government, organized labor and business, an operation that will have a significant positive impact on Penobscot County’s regional economy--Bangor Daily News—9/26/11
·         The good times for "Made in America" are just getting started, according to a new study from The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). BCG predicts 2015 will be a tipping point of sorts, when global manufacturers will view the U.S. as equal to if not better-than China. According to BCG senior partner, Harold Sirkin, “We’re not saying the world's going to suddenly change and U.S. companies are going to manufacture here for shipment to China. But the U.S. will be a very important place if you're going to sell into the U.S."—Yahoo! Finance—5/13/11

·         Welding supplier ESAB supplies core materials for a range of industries, and is expanding its operations in the US rather than abroad. The company has been manufacturing in China, but when it decided to replace a plant in Ohio, it settled on South Carolina rather than China-- Manufacturing Economy Daily—5/6/11
·         Boathouse Sports in Philadelphia, PA got a large apparel order from the Dartmouth College Rugby team last spring. The team usually purchased its requirements from a garment factory in Asia, but the typical eight week wait was unacceptable to the team’s coach. Boathouse Sports delivered in four weeks at the same price.—Bloomberg Business Week—4/11/11

Here’s to an even more successful year in 2012 for US manufacturing!

Joe Cappello is Director of Global Marketing for Rotor Clip Company.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mississippi Site of New Clean Energy Factory

"Smart" windows by Soladigm change color to adjust to light
 making it possible to cool or warm a room.

In the fight to entice green manufacturing jobs to set up shop in their corner of America, I always thought it'd be Texas that was going to give California the biggest run for its money.  The race to lock down budding cleantech companies of the future was, for a pretty long time, between these two heavyweights. 

And while Rick Perry and UCLA duke out how much damage the Lone Star really did in Cali job loss, the more interesting story lies in clean start-ups heading off to a state not usually noted for embracing these types of companies.

That'd be Mississippi.  From Dana Hull of San Jose Mercury News:

          Soladigm [a company that makes “smart windows”] chose to locate its manufacturing    in Olive Branch, Miss., after Mississippi offered an enticing package that included a $4        million grant and a $40 million long-term, low-interest loan. The upshot is that 300        manufacturing jobs are being created in Mississippi instead of California. Mississippi has also lured San Jose solar startup Stion, which will build manufacturing facilities in     Hattiesburg..” - Dana Hull, Silicon Valley, Mercury

(Note: The technical term for smart windows is “Electrochromic windows,” which, according to Soladigm’s web site, are so called because they change colors to reflect or absorb light when a low-voltage electrical current is applied. The ability makes it possible to cool or warm up a room and thereby save energy costs).

As Ms. Hull's article goes onto state here, Mississippi is not the only one successfully peeling off new green businesses from the Golden State, which still has a fourth of the nation's solar industry.  That being said, it's pretty interesting to me that a state currently ranking 41st in total renewable electricity generation per year  just grabbed two, count 'em, two clean companies right out from under the state with the highest energy standards, as well as a clean energy public investment fund worth $30 million.

Still, I love this story for two reasons: one, a competitive public investment environment is beginning to develop around the clean industry, and two, states that weren't even on the map a couple years ago are putting enough capital behind their interest to make the frontrunners have to change their game a little.  It may be annoying for California in the short run, but it could absolutely serve their clean energy policies well in the long term.

And hey, I'd rather read about jobs going from Silicon Valley to Olive Branch than from Massachusetts to Wuhan.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.