GREENVILLE – In only his second week on the job, Gov. Haley Barbour announced a major coup for the state: Textron Fastening Systems, a $1.65-billion business unit of Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT), is coming to Mississippi. Better yet, the maker of custom-designed specialty threaded fasteners is making its home in Greenville, the heart of the impoverished Delta.
“We’re thrilled that Textron Fastening Systems has chosen Greenville for its new manufacturing facility,” said Barbour. “As a global leader in fastening solutions, the decision by this Fortune 500 company business unit to locate an advanced manufacturing center in the Mississippi Delta will improve the economic landscape for this region. This announcement proves that Mississippi continues to expand its role in the global auto industry and is a major competitor for quality jobs throughout the state.”
Barbour acknowledged former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove for his role in the recruitment of the Troy, Mich.-based global leader and full-service provider of engineered fastening systems, state-of-the-art assembly technology, application engineering services and fastener management services. With more than 10,000 employees worldwide, Textron supplies value-added fastening products, systems and services through its 50 operating facilities in 17 countries to customers in nearly 200 countries. Two-thirds of the company`s goods are sold to the automotive industry, including Nissan. Nearly half of all sales are inside the U.S., and 37% in Europe.
“Our new Greenville facility helps us improve the productivity of our U.S. manufacturing operations while providing a strategic base for growing our business with the automotive manufacturers and tier one suppliers with operations in Mississippi and the South,” said Textron Fastening Systems president Rick Clayton.
Clayton told an enthusiastic Greenville crowd that “we are excited for this opportunity because we intend to become an active, involved member of your community, to become part of the very fabric of your city, and the entire Delta region.”
Established in 1995 as a unit of Textron Inc., the fastening systems unit accounted for roughly 16% of Textron`s total sales in 2002. Textron Inc. is an $11-billion multi-industry company headquartered in Providence, R.I.
“Textron Fastening Systems has been on a remarkable journey over the past five years, moving from a collection of fastening businesses to one powerful global provider of fastening solutions,” said Clayton. “If it flies, floats, rolls or rises to the sky, we hold it all together.”
Dave Francois, a 20-year company veteran, will manage the Greenville plant. An expert in fastening manufacturing, Francois helped establish Textron`s Malaysia operations and Monterrey, Mexico, facilities.
The company will occupy a 308,000-square-foot facility that housed Nicholson Saw Company for 30 years and closed in 1997. The hiring of 500 workers, who will be paid competitive industry wages, began immediately, and equipment will trickle in from Midwest plants this summer.
The $35-million plant, which will manufacture custom-designed specialty threaded fasteners and engineered assemblies primarily for the automotive industry, should be fully operational by mid-September.
“We couldn`t be more pleased,” said Mississippi Manufacturers Association president Jay Moon. “We think Textron is a great company and a marquis name, and it will be a great addition to Mississippi and particularly, a great addition to the Delta and Greenville area.”
The site selection process had been in the works since last summer, said Textron corporate spokesperson Tim Weir.
“The evaluation of consolidating Textron Fastening System`s North American manufacturing operations has been going on for more than a year,” he said. “We have been gradually reducing excess plant capacity and have closed some facilities in Illinois, Michigan and elsewhere in the world. We looked at our U.S. plants for opportunities to consolidate the manufacture of comparable products in a smaller footprint and move production from plants with significant excess capacity to under one roof.”
Consolidating production from three plants in Illinois and Michigan led the company to the South, which has been dubbed “the new Detroit” because of its automotive corridor. The company narrowed the list to Mississippi and Alabama, and Greenville was chosen because of its strategic importance and suitable facility, said Weir.
“Mississippi provides us a clean slate from which we can set up the production flow, using lean manufacturing methods so we can insure the best efficiency from the very beginning of production,” he said. “This facility will be the recipient of the majority of production from three other plants in the Midwest. It was in the right place for us to serve this market.”
Textron already does business with Nissan in Mexico and “would very much like to get some of their business at the new facility in Canton,” said Weir.
The state paid Textron approximately $1.5 million in incentives, including $850,000 in Community Development Block Grants and $150,000 from its Develop Infrastructure Program grant fund. The Washington County Board of Supervisors paid $1.2 million to acquire and upgrade the building, which was built in 1961. The county will lease the facility to Textron. The Delta Regional Authority kicked in $250,000, and Entergy Mississippi provided a $150,000 grant. Entergy`s grant – the first of its kind – signals that the company is moving in a totally new direction in recruiting.
“At Entergy, we are strengthening our commitment to our communities by moving in new directions to bring industries like Textron to our state,” said Carolyn Shanks, president and CEO of Entergy Mississippi. “Through a new grants program, we hope to help bridge the gap that often exists between what the state can offer and what companies need. We’ve also added an economic development rider designed to lower electric rates for qualifying new or expanding business for their first five years. Textron is the first company to take advantage of that rider, but we are very confident that others will follow.”
Weir said Entergy has been “an important partner.”
“The company has been very gracious, and understood the value of supporting a manufacturing facility of this size,” he said.
When asked which incentives were the most important, Weir responded, “all of them.”
“Never underestimate the value to a company of solid training resources,” he added.
The Capps Center of Mississippi Delta Community College is working with Textron in the areas of testing and training. Recruitment is taking place through the WIN centers and Textron`s human resources department. The Capps Center and Textron will train 500 hourly employees in waves, said Capps Center director Perry Jenkins.
“Potential employees are sent to the Capps Center for academic and aptitude testing,” he said. “Once the testing has taken place, the results are turned over to the employer. The employer then makes the determination of who they want to be enrolled in training.”
The first wave of training began Jan. 20, with 170 applicants participating in 200-plus hours of pre-employment training. Half of the individuals attend class five days a week, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The second group attends class from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays and all day Saturday. Training for additional groups will continue through late summer, with new groups of trainees beginning a cycle about every three weeks, with the entire training cycle lasting a total of six weeks, said Jenkins.
“The program consists of training in company expectations, benefits, health and environmental issues, instrument reading, blueprint reading, GD&T (geometric dimensioning and tolerancing), quality, metrology and fastener technology,” he said. “The above mentioned training lasts three and one-half weeks. Candidates are then trained for an additional 80 hours on actual machine operations.”
The Textron-Capps Center collaboration “has been one of real teamwork,” said Jenkins.
“The Textron group has pro
self to be absolutely professional and topnotch in every respect,” he said. “During the Christmas holidays, our staff worked with Textron to get the training package ready to begin on January 20. Each step was carefully thought out and put to paper. The whole process has been most enjoyable for the staff at the Capps Center. We look forward to a long and continued relationship with Textron.”
The State Board of Community and Junior Colleges provided workforce training funding for the Textron project.
“I am firmly convinced that the existence of workforce training in the state played a major role in Textron`s decision to locate in Mississippi,” said Jenkins.
With 500 employees, Textron Fastening Systems will instantly become one of Washington County`s largest employers, joining USG Interiors Inc., Britons U.S. Axminster Inc., Great Dane Trailers, Master Foods USA and Delta Regional Medical Center. Approximately 150 applicants have already made the first cut in the application process. The company will hire primarily machinists with experience in tool and die, machines and manufacturing.
“Since 2001, Greenville has lost six manufacturers and 986 jobs, so Textron will be a shot in the arm for the entire region and the state,” said Moon.
As Textron suppliers move into the area, another 200 jobs should be created, said Weir.
“The plant will rely on the outside support of heat treating, coating and plating, tooling and machining suppliers in the Mississippi Delta region, as well as some of its existing suppliers in the Midwest,” he said. “The company is in the process of identifying and qualifying those new Mississippi suppliers now, but understand that we will continue to have suppliers in the Midwest provide some of these processing steps for our fastening systems.”
Weir said there were no immediate plans to relocate other suppliers to support the plant.
“We’re confident of our ability to develop a strong supply base in the region because of the proximity of other fastening companies in that part of the state,” he said.
No additional road infrastructure will be needed around the immediate plant area, said Tommy Hart, executive director of the Washington County Economic Development District.
“The facility is located adjacent to Highway 1,” said Hart. “Development of the Greenville Bypass will enhance transportation access in and around Greenville as well as providing a quicker access to all points away from Greenville.”
Textron`s decision to locate in Greenville will send an important message that the workforce and area are serious competitors for good jobs, said Al Rankin, president of the Washington County Board of Supervisors.
Robert Ingram, executive director of the Greenwood-Leflore-Carroll Economic Development Foundation, said the location of Textron “is very significant for the Mississippi Delta, not only because of its economic impact, but also because it further proves that the Delta`s labor force is capable of producing world class products.”
“It is not an accident that world-renowned companies such as Viking, Milwaukee Electric Tool and Textron locate in the Mississippi Delta,” he said. “We can compete against anyone, anywhere, anytime, and we are proving it every day.”
MDA executive director Leland R. Speed said state leaders were “excited about the opportunity to work in partnership with Greenville and Washington County officials to attract Textron to this area.”
“These jobs are important and we`ll continue to provide strong leadership and support in the future,” he said.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at firstname.lastname@example.org.