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Clarke County sees company bring new jobs

Shubuta — After eight years of searching for the right manufacturing and distribution plant, a native Mississippian returned home to open a facility in Clarke County and create 35 to 50 new jobs within the next two years.

Stewart Foley of Laurel worked as vice president of sales for Sunbeam Oster when the company occupied the 190,000-square-foot Clarke County plant. His business partner, George Stewart, was president of the manufacturing facility. The two parted ways, with Foley joining a manufacturer of showerheads and Stewart working for a manufacturer of gas appliance parts, but they kept in touch. When they learned the old Sunbeam Oster facility was available, they figured a way to use it.

“We’d both worked at the Sunbeam plant and knew the employees were hard-working people with good work ethics,” said Foley. “Back then, we never dreamed we’d come back with our own business and move into this facility, but we were both looking for something different to do. We searched together and found Genesis Manufacturing, which had outgrown its facility in Albertville, Ala. We liked Clarke County and wanted to return.”

Cranking up production

Foley and Stewart acquired Genesis Manufacturing, a manufacturer of lampshades for the hotel, motel and retail market, whose customers include Wal-Mart. They began moving into the manufacturing and distribution facility in Shubuta last September, and cranked up production in late March with 15 employees. Within two years, another 35 workers should be added to the payroll, said Foley.

“One day, they had at least 25 Wal-Mart trucks come through,” said Tony Fleming, Clarke County District 5 Supervisor. “They provide lampshades to a majority of the folks in the hotel and motel industry. It’s a huge operation.”

Sunbeam Oster had exited the plant about five years ago, and a manufacturer of rebuilt starters and small motor parts for its parent company, Delco-Ramey, occupied the building briefly before its operation was moved to Mexico. Fleming called the advent of Genesis “a blessing for Clarke County.”

“It’s good to see cars parked in that parking lot again,” he said.

Foley said he and his partner initially considered the old Sunbeam building in Bay Springs when they began mulling options eight years ago.

“At one time, we thought about moving our facility to a different location,” he said. “We were talking to the people in Bay Springs, and that’s when I met Rusty McMillan (executive director of the Mid-Mississippi Development District). We decided it was too early and the building wasn’t really suited for our needs, so we gave up our thoughts about that possibility. Rusty followed up with me on a regular basis, so when we decided to move from the Albertville location, we started talking to him again. He kept checking with us, telling us about available buildings, and we got to a point where we said, if we purchase this company and get some of Wal-Mart’s business, then we’d need another facility to handle the volume.”

Coming together

McMillan said even though some high-profile economic development projects move fast, most projects, like Genesis, move slowly.

“It’s taken this long for everything to come together and make this a reality,” he said. “It’s a nice change to get some good news in an area that has been hit hard by plant closures in the last few years.”

The 20-year old company will retain its operations in Albertville, Ala., and mainland China.

“Right now, any changes we make will be flow changes,” said Foley. “The main thing we’re planning on doing at this location is gearing up and producing the Wal-Mart products. Then after we get that under our belt, we’ll look at other changes, such as expanding into other areas.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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