The Delta town of Dumas is getting an economic boost with the expansion of a manufacturing operation, SAF-Holland. The $4 million investment and retrofitting of an existing structure will add new production capabilities to the company’s existing Desha County operations. It’s expected to support 65 new jobs.
Arkansas Economic Development Commission Director Mike Preston says that adds up to quite an impact for a small town.
“When you think about what 65 jobs means in a community of 4,300, when you put that to scale to Little Rock, it would be equivalent to us announcing a 2,500 job project,” said Preston.
Some of those are a result of the Luxembourg-based company closing down some union shops in Michigan in an effort to centralize operations. AEDC Director Preston says the state is happy to capitalize on the situation.
“Usually when a company has an opportunity to expand, sometimes it unfortunately means that they’re going to be closing other facilities and shifting some jobs around,” said Preston. “Fortunately for us it means we’re going to be able to grow. Unfortunately it does mean they’re doing a realignment of some of the other jobs they had in other states.”
SAF-Holland makes auto-related parts like trailer chassis, primarily for large commercial vehicles. The company has been in Dumas since 1988 and currently employs 143 people. The expansion represents a 40-percent increase in its workforce.
In January, SAF-Holland executive Steffen Schwerda said the transportation market was not in good shape and that the company needed to reduce shipping costs.
“When you look at our customer base, they all migrated south to southern parts of the United States,” Schewerda said. “When we produce very heavy parts made of steel and iron, which are very costly to ship, logistics are a very big part of the business. Basically, we will move jobs to locations that are much closer to our customer base. It is not about the performance of these plants.”
The company consolidated its seven plants down to five, all still within the U.S. At least 230 workers in Michigan were affected by relocating operations to Dumas, AR, Cincinnati, OH, and Wylie, Texas.