MORRILTON Operations are winding down at the Bosch plant in Morrilton, which announced a year ago it would close by December 2012 and send its remaining work to Mexico.
“I believe there are still 100 workers there,” said Brandon Baker, president of the Morrilton Area Chamber of Commerce. “All operations should be completed in the building, with the exception of a few maintenance issues, by Dec. 31.”
Bosch Security Systems Inc. makes audio speakers and speaker components in Morrilton. Baker said the plant had 180 employees at the height of production, including full- and part-time and temporary employees.
The annual payroll leaving the city, former chamber president John Gibson said, is $25 million to $30 million.
Chandra Lewis, director of corporate communications for Bosch, said most of the company’s production will move to Hermosillo, Mexico.
Morrilton Mayor Stewart Nelson called the move “depressing,” and one he’s seen happen before, with Levi Strauss & Co., for example.
“What we’re trying to do is make sure whoever buys it is going to do something with it,” he said of the plant. “We had a cotton mill close, the people got it at a very good price, and it sat there and sat there and sat there.”
However, he and other city officials pointed out the positives of the plant — its size, condition and location.
Baker said the 209,988-square-foot building is in “just an ideal, prime location” off Interstate 40. The plant on Telex Drive, adjacent to the Conway County Economic Development Corp.’s industrial park, sits on 25 to 30 acres.
“Memphis, Oklahoma City, Fayetteville are all within five hours,” Baker said. “It will appeal to several industry sectors.”
The building housed Arrow Automotive before that facility closed. Telex purchased the building in 2001 when it moved its operations from Texas to Morrilton. Telex was purchased by an investment company, which sold it to Bosch, an international company, in 2006, Lewis said.
The building is for sale with real estate company Hart Corp. for $1.75 million, Baker said.
“They’ve sold the building before, to Telex when Arrow closed. They’re very familiar with the building, and their experience is something to be proud of,” Baker said.
“It’s been looked at. We’re working with anybody and everybody. We hope any day that someone is ready to go. The economy definitely is slow. Hopefully, now that the elections are over, things will pick up,” he said.
The Conway Area Chamber of Commerce has a partnership with the Morrilton Chamber to assist in recruiting efforts.
T.J. Johnston, executive vice president of the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce and Conway Development Corp., said he believes the Bosch plant will attract another tenant.
“It’s big, it’s got great bones, and I think it’s priced competitively, too,” Johnston said. “We’ve got the facility listed on the state website and CDC website.
“The CDC in Conway — we have seen a dramatic increase this year in manufacturing prospects,” he said.
Johnston said he thinks the same interest will hold true in Morrilton.
Patty Shipp, a member of the School Counts! board, said Bosch has committed to a $10,000 donation to the initiative, which emphasizes higher education to K-12 students in four Conway County school districts.
“What we’re trying to do is strengthen our workforce,” she said.
The funds will be used to help compensate the School Counts! counselor, a position now paid for with a Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation grant.
“We’re so appreciative,” Shipp said. “Maybe we can help students be more prepared for whoever fills that building next time.”
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.