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Kimberly-Clark Corp. is expanding its baby-wipes operation in Maumelle with a $68 million expansion in two phases over the next three years. The plant at 500 Murphy Drive opened 25 years ago for the sole purpose of making Huggies brand baby wipes for distribution throughout North America.

"They've been here a long time, and this is not their first expansion," said Judy Keller, the city's director of community and economic development.

The Maumelle City Council approved an ordinance this week allowing the city to issue $40 million in federally taxable industrial revenue bonds for the project. The money will be used to add 40,000 square feet to the 400,000-square-foot plant. A second bond issue for $28 million is planned for later.

Kimberly-Clark is responsible for paying off the bonds. The company will reap a lower interest rate by having them issued by a municipality.

The expansion will add some 26 to 45 full-time jobs over the 3-year period, said plant manager Kirk Linna. Kimberly-Clark will be hiring equipment operators, maintenance workers and engineers.

"What I find in U.S. manufacturing in general, it can be somewhat challenging to find folks with experience like what we're seeking -- maintenance, electrical, mechanical types of skills," he said. "But because of our standing in the community and the [types of] jobs, we have a lot of applicants, so I'm high confident that we'll find great employees.

"It's going to take a little time, but the workforce here is phenomenal," he added.

Linna would not give a pay range for the new jobs but said the pay would be competitive with similar jobs in the region. The plant now employs 455 people, making it the second-largest employer in Maumelle, according to the mayor's office. Molex, which makes computer connectors and cables, is the largest with about 950 workers on its payroll.

Kimberly-Clark has already taken out a permit to lay the foundation for the addition, Keller said. Work started a few weeks ago, Mayor Mike Watson said. Because the plant addition requires "highly specialized work and specialized types of machinery and equipment," the city waived competitive bidding for this particular industrial project, according to the ordinance approving the bond issue. Kimberly-Clark will lease the addition and equipment from the city.

Lease costs have yet to be determined, the mayor said.

Business on 07/22/2015

Print Headline: $68M in bonds to boost factory

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