A conveyor manufacturing company that opened a $20 million facility with 250 jobs in Fort Smith earlier this year wants to add 100 positions at the plant.
Hytrol Conveyor Co. Inc. of Jonesboro said the additional jobs were needed to handle a new product line that the company said was derived from its 24-volt line of conveyors.
Thursday's announcement was made less than nine months after it said it was moving its parcel conveyor line to Fort Smith in a 300,000-square-foot facility it is leasing at 6500 Jenny Lind Road.
By May, Hytrol had started conveyor production with more than 100 employees and was advertising for another 100 people to work a second shift at the facility.
"We designed this new facility with future expansion and capacity in mind," Phillip Poston, director of Fort Smith operations for Hytrol. "The success of the parcel project gave our leaders the confidence to move forward with this new product line in Fort Smith."
Production on that new line is planned to begin as soon as this month and will require the new positions in Fort Smith to be filled by year's end, according to the announcement. An untold number of jobs also will be added in the Jonesboro facility.
Hytrol, which bills itself as the largest conveyor manufacturer in the nation, turns out products in a 700,000-square-foot facility in Jonesboro and also has a 48,000-square-foot research and development facility there. Hytrol employs more than 1,200 people in the Jonesboro area.
Hytrol moved to Arkansas from Wisconsin in 1962 and began operations with 28 employees. The company manufactures material handling systems for 150 customers worldwide, serving the e-commerce, food and beverage, package handling and pharmaceuticals industries, among others.
As demand increases for its products because of the coronavirus pandemic, Hytrol executives saw the need to expand but decided to diversify its manufacturing footprint after its operations narrowly escaped a 2020 tornado in Jonesboro.
The company considered 13 states for expansion and several places within Arkansas before settling on Fort Smith.
Company officials were joined by Commerce Secretary Mike Preston and Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Tim Allen in making the announcement.
"In its short time in Fort Smith, Hytrol Conveyor Company has already proven itself to be a valuable community partner," Allen said. "This expansion validates their commitment to western Arkansas and we could not be more pleased with this Phase II development. They continue to exceed our expectations and it demonstrates how Fort Smith has all of the necessary resources for companies to thrive."
David Peacock, Hytrol president, said that the decision to expand was based on a host of factors.
"From local to state level, the support and leadership we continue to partner with in this expansion is top-tier," he said. "This has been a huge project for everyone involved, and the teams of people working both within Hytrol and outside of Hytrol gave us the confidence to commit to expanding further."