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Baldor Electric employees are winners with new multi-million dollar plant

Columbus — The 245 employees of Baldor Electric Co. here have remained on the job while many manufacturing jobs across the state have been lost due to plant closings in recent years.

However, with the 40-year-old Baldor Electric manufacturing plant now being replaced by a new $15- to $20-million facility at the Lowndes County Port, employees have gotten a vote of confidence that bodes well for the future.

“The new plant makes the employees feel like winners,” said Gary Beatty, plant manager. “As far as our employees go, they are very excited by this commitment by Baldor Corporation. We have a significant payroll here in Columbus that will remain here. We have a lot of long-term employees here who do an outstanding job for us. They are a very quality and customer oriented group of employees. Our employees realize the reason they get a paycheck every week is because of our customers.”

Formal groundbreaking for the new facility was held in early May. JESCO Inc., Tupelo, is the general contractor for the project.

Joe Max Higgins, CEcD, Columbus-Lowndes Development Link, said Lowndes County has had its share of good and bad news.

“But having Baldor, which could have located anywhere in the world, chose to continue their business in our county shows Mississippi and the nation that Lowndes County is a winner,” Higgins said. “I believe because of their very productive employees, our economic development response team, and their new suitable site, Baldor will be able to continue their success as a publicly traded, highly profitable company. We are glad that they chose to relocate and expand in Lowndes County. My hat is off to the great work ethic of the Baldor employees.”

Baldor Electric Co. of Columbus makes electric motors, drives and generators for industrial customers. Randy Waltman, vice president of operations for Baldor Electric Co., which is headquartered in Fort Smith, Ark., said the company is anxious to give its dedicated workers a new facility to continue to take good care of their customers.

“We hope to be in the new facility by February or March of next year,” Waltman said. “We are adding a distribution center, and moving from a 160,000-square foot facility to a 300,000-square foot facility. About 50,000 square feet of that will be used as a distribution center. We plan to add 30 to 40 jobs, some of those in the new distribution center.”

He credited the expansion to a great job done by the company’s employees, who make products for a wide range of industrial customers including those involved in mining, logging, material handling, oil and gas, HVAC, pumps and machine tool-making manufacturing.

“Our goal is to provide the best value for our customers. Our employees are very customer focused and do a great job for us in Columbus. We are proud to be in the community and look forward to another 40 years there,” Waltman said.

L. Ed Ralston, vice president of finance for Baldor Electric, said the company is able to compete on the world market by focusing on value.

“We successfully design, manufacture and sell our products within the U.S., and we also sell competitively throughout the world,” Ralston said. “We have 14 manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and one in England. We’re able to compete because we have highly productive facilities and employees. We build the best product you can buy in the industrial marketplace. Industrial customers are typically more value minded, and we sell value.”

Ralston said a vital component of the reinvestment project was receiving a $650,000 community block development grant from the state that will be used for infrastructure improvements such as roads and sewer.

“Additionally, the city and county have agreed to about $200,000 combined for infrastructure improvements,” Ralston said. “The state also provided tax credits for job creation as part of their normal business development program.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.

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