Owens Corning gets green light to expand into Fort Smith

FILE — The Owens Corning sign is seen at its plant in the Fort Smith area, 5520 Planters Road, Wednesday, June 2, 2021.

FORT SMITH -- City leaders on Tuesday gave Owens Corning the green light to launch its nine-figure expansion into Fort Smith.

City directors unanimously voted to zone Owens Corning's 74 acres at Planters Road and Arkansas 45 as a planned zoning district for development, approving the land for manufacturing and distribution. That allows the roofing textiles company to spend $107.25 million to build a new manufacturing facility that incorporates new land into the city.

The decision follows the board's May 18 approval of a pre-annexation agreement between the city and Owens Corning and a May 3 neighborhood meeting about the expansion. The agreement commenced a 30-day public comment period for the expansion.

The expansion will go forward barring any concerns raised in the public comment period that would stop the process, said Planning Director Maggie Rice.

Owens Corning, based in Toledo, Ohio, manufactures roofing, insulation and composites for home construction. Its Arkansas plant employs 79.

The board's approval follows Owens Corning's February announcement it would expand by constructing a 550,000-square-foot plant adjacent to its current property. The new plant will bring five additional jobs. The current plant will shut down and transfer to the new one, bringing its current positions with it. It will begin operations in 2023.

The Arkansas Department of Transportation has invested $262,500 for road improvements to support the new facility.

"In order for this facility to come into the city of Fort Smith, it needs zoning and it needs land use designations," said Dalton Person, Owens Corning's attorney for annexation.

The Owens Corning project is one of three Fort Smith manufacturing expansions announced in early 2021. In January, conveyor system manufacturer Hytrol announced a $20 million expansion in the city with the intent to create 250 jobs. Mars Petcare also announced that month a $145 million expansion of its facility, which is expected to create 120 jobs.

At-Large Director Neal Martin said the expansions both bring jobs to the area and create work for construction contractors, which helps the city's economy.

"Any time anybody wants to expand, we like it, and we want to see more of it," said Martin.

The north entrance to the Owens Corning plant in the Fort Smith area is seen Wednesday, June 2, 2021.
The north entrance to the Owens Corning plant in the Fort Smith area is seen Wednesday, June 2, 2021.