By JACK WEATHERLY
Blauer Manufacturing, which makes uniforms and protective wear for police officers and firefighters, will expand its operations in north Mississippi in a $2.4 million corporate investment and creation of 150 jobs over three years.
Located in Lafayette County, Blauer is moving to the former Batesville Casket Company plant in Batesville. The company, which employs about 150 workers in Lafayette County, will relocate the existing jobs to Batesville.
“We are excited to showcase the Blauer brand with an appealing presence directly on Interstate I-55. The newly renovated building is double the size of our existing building with plenty of room to expand,” Blauer Manufacturing President Michael Blauer said in a news release.
The Mississippi Development Authority provided a $500,000 grant for renovations and $300,000 for work-force training.
The Panola Partnership is providing assistance for start-up costs, the amount of which it declines to reveal because it is a private entity, according to the MDA.
The city of Batesville and Panola County are providing a 10-year property tax abatement. Panola County is also granting a Free Port Warehouse Inventory Tax exemption.
Blauer has had operations in Lafayette County since 1997. The company plans to be operational in its new location in the third quarter of 2019.
Joe Azar, director of the Panola Partnership, said it is only a 20-drive from Oxford to Batesville. For that reason, Blauer, which had been looking at a Pensacola, Fla. location, expects 98 percent of the current employees to make the drive.
Blauer simply had outgrown its 100,000-square-foot Oxford plant, according to Elvest Cook, vice president for logistics and distsribution for the Boston-based company. A private company, it was founded in 1936. The Batesville plant is about twice that size, Cook said.
Pay ranges from $10 to $15 an hour, Cook said.
“We try to capitalize on different attitude,” Cook said, adding that the company throws a couple of parties a year for the workers.
Batesville Casket closed in March 2017, putting 200 employees out of work. The plant assembled wooden caskets for nearly 30 years. It was owned by Indiana-based Batesville Basket.
The plant has been vacant since that closure.
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