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New jobs created thanks to two factory closings in Mexico

‘Reverse NAFTA’ development creates jobs in Aberdeen

ABERDEEN – A major new economic development here that is expected to provide jobs for 300 to 500 people within the next two years is an unusual example of what is known as “reverse NAFTA.”

The new jobs here were partly created from closing two factories in Mexico. Holley Performance Products (www.holley.com) is consolidating six plants, including two plants in Mexico, into the facility in Aberdeen. The company produces automobile headers and other products for the performance market — hot rods and race cars.

The siting of the Holley plant in Aberdeen, population 7,000, was particularly welcome because the town had recently lost one of its largest employers, Walker Tenneco. Walker Tenneco had been in Aberdeen since 1958, growing to a work force of 500 at one point before declining to 215 at the time of closure. Soon after the Walker Tenneco plant closed this past October, an agreement was made by the city and county to lease the plant to Holley Performance Products.

Holley opened an exhaust division in Aberdeen in May, and currently has 132 employed at the plant. Employment is expected to reach from between 300-500 in the next two years as the company consolidation continues.

“This plant has a tremendous impact not just on Aberdeen, but on all of Monroe County,” said David L. Parker, CED, president and CEO of the Monroe County Chamber of Commerce. “When Walker Tenneco decided to close, they had 215 people on payroll. We’ll be close to tripling that number in employment in the next 24 months at Holley Performance Products.”

In addition to providing jobs now, attracting the company to Aberdeen could bode well for future growth. Parker said Holley has such a well-recognized name that it will be a benefit when marketing the area to other automotive-related industries. Parker said Aberdeen also has the advantage of being midway between the Nissan facility in Mississippi and the Mercedes plant in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

The plant being used by Holley is owned by the city and county, and that allowed the facility to be marketed at a competitive price.

“That made a huge difference,” Parker said. “We were very fortunate that was the situation. The building also matched the criteria Holley Performance Products Inc. was looking for.”

Tony Watson, a spokesman for Holley Performance Products in Aberdeen, said grand opening ceremonies for the plant were held in mid-January. About 70% of the workforce is former Walker Tenneco employees.

“One of reasons we decided to locate here was because of the available work force,” Watson said. “A lot of the work is similar to what Walker was doing. Walker built mufflers and tailpipes, and got into headers in the last few years.”

Two years ago Holley purchased two Mexican plants. Those two plants and another in Tempe, Ariz., have been closed and the operations moved to Aberdeen.

Watson said the “reverse NAFTA” development was possible because of the cooperation and support from the City of Aberdeen, the Monroe County Board of Supervisors and the Mississippi Development Authority, which helped provide bond money for the project.

Watson said the company can be competitive manufacturing in the U.S. because of lower cost for the building leases combined with greater efficiency.

“People talk about cheap labor in Mexico, but they don’t see other pieces to it like leases on the buildings,” Watson said. “We couldn’t move the plant here and make the product cost more. So we have to make it as cheap or cheaper than we were making it down there and come up with a better quality product, too.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at mullein@datasync.com or (228) 872-3457.

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