LEAKESVILLE — When Peavey Electronics closed its manufacturing plant here earlier this year, it was a big blow to a small town located in a rural South Mississippi county with a high unemployment rate. But it turned out that the building, owned by the Greene County Board of Supervisors, was perfect for an expansion of Value Line Company, based in Arkadelphia, Ark.
Value Line currently has about a dozen employees, mostly former Peavey workers, employed at the Leakesville plant that will produce furniture for the lodging industry and the military. Employment is expected to grow to 100 by the spring.
“Previous Peavey employees will have an obvious advantage,” said Russell Turner, editor of the Greene County Herald in Leakesville. “They know the facility. Procedures are similar.”
Turner said the project is a major shot in the arm for Leakesville.
Value Line CEO Hal Kidd said he picked Leakesville because it had some woodworkers who are already trained.
“I’m ready to expand,” Kidd said. “They gave me a good deal to come in. They had a building they made me a very attractive offer on. It is in close proximity to our customer base and a good location. It is equipped with a lot of infrastructure I can readily use. I can walk in, turn on the lights and go to work, practically. It just kind of fit hand and glove with what we were looking for.
“We are trying to ramp up as quickly as we can. We are installing some equipment. It always takes longer than you hope.”
Advantages include being closer to the Florida hotel market and Coast military bases. Also, Kidd hopes that the county that traditionally has a high unemployment rate can be designated a Hub zone. That is a government designation for economically depressed areas that provides incentives for business development. Value Line is working with U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-Miss.) office on the Hub zone proposal.
Kidd said it might take a while to work up to full employment at the facility.
“The hotel business has been really soft the past couple of years, but it is showing signs of reviving,” Kidd said.
Value Line received short-term tax exemptions and other incentives in return for creation of a guaranteed number of jobs at the facility. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove joined elected leaders of Greene County, the City of Leakesville and University of Southern Mississippi president Shelby Thames in the announcement of the facility in September.
The county will retain ownership of the facility, but provide it rent-free in return for the company maintaining an average monthly payroll of 50 employees, set to grow to 125 after three years.
Leakesville Mayor Fred Hight said finding an industry to fill the 127,000-square-foot plant is a major accomplishment.
“The Town of Leakesville is proud to have Value Line select our community as a manufacturing site,” Hight said.
Kidd said eventually more production and employees might be shifted to Leakesville from Arkadelphia to take advantage of the spacious and modern plant facility.
“We anticipate that since we have more space here and lots of infrastructure that will facilitate growth much better than where we are now, that this will become our main plant, if not only plant,” Kidd said in an article in the Greene County Herald. “We are looking forward to getting things cranked up here.”
Value Line is a 31-year-old private company that currently employs 120 at two facilities in Arkadelphia.
“Value Line Company offers a wide range of style and price options all masterfully designed to create an ambience surpassed by none,” the Web site states. “Classic and traditional designs full of warmth and elegance to contemporary styling with a casual resort feeling, our furniture reflects the finest attention to detail with no short cuts in the manufacturing and finishing processes. From the graceful accentuation of carved molding to the functional storage design, Value Line Company confidently offers the finest in contract furnishings.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at email@example.com.