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Central Moloney plans 2nd Florida plant

by I.C. Murrell | July 16, 2023 at 4:13 a.m.
Central Moloney Inc. CEO Chris Hart poses in the lounge of the company's Pine Bluff headquarters in this Jan. 12, 2022, photo. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)

Central Moloney Inc. will build its second Florida facility in as many years, but the CEO of the transformer manufacturing company said no jobs would be lost at its Pine Bluff headquarters.

Central Moloney and One Okaloosa Economic Development Council announced Thursday the company would build a 302,000-square-foot facility on 48 acres of the Shoal River Ranch Gigasite in Crestview, north of Destin in Okaloosa County, Fla., becoming the first tenant of the 10,500-acre industrial park. Central Moloney and the Okaloosa County Board of Commissioners also agreed to a three-year purchase option for 10 more acres in order to accommodate future company growth, according to a news release.

The total investment in the new facility is projected at about $50 million, with 350 higher-wage jobs to be created as the company scales to full production.

Central Moloney's Pine Bluff headquarters employs about 600 people, CEO Chris Hart said Saturday. But the company is struggling to fill other positions with those qualified to do the job.

"I simply cannot staff any more than what we've got going on in Pine Bluff," Hart said. "We've committed to growth in Jefferson County. We are expanding our components facility by 20,000 square feet, but we are only fully staffing one shift in Pine Bluff at the transformer operation. [It's] a function of not being able to find people that are qualified to come work for us, and by qualified, I mean showing up for work on time every day and understanding they've got to learn a little bit while we're here."

Nathan Sparks, executive director of One Okaloosa EDC, said his council first connected with Central Moloney in early 2021 and later paid a visit to the Pine Bluff headquarters, adding "it was obvious" the company values people and the communities they call home.

"As they have already proven with their initial investment in Bay County last year, CMI is committed to becoming part of the fabric of northwest Florida," Sparks said. "We enthusiastically welcome them to Okaloosa County."

The new Crestview facility, projected to open within 24 to 36 months after groundbreaking either later this year or early in 2024, will produce single-phase pads, Hart said. In January 2022 Central Moloney invested $20 million into a 140,000-square-foot facility already built at Venture Crossing Enterprise Center in Panama City Beach, 82 miles southeast of Crestview in Bay County, Fla. That facility, Hart said, produces single-phase, pole-mounted transformers and is ramping up production at the moment.

"A large part of the ramp has to do with getting people on, getting them trained," Hart said. "We don't hire transformer builders off the street. We hire good people, and we realize the burden it takes to get those good people trained and to be able to produce at the level of quality that Central Moloney expects of itself and our customers expect of us. It's moving along. We are getting closer to staff one shift there and get that staff trained, ready to rock and roll. We're in good shape and getting ready to ramp up production right now."

The Pine Bluff facility produces single-phase and three-phase pad mounts, power poles, pads and submersibles, Hart said. But he added establishing the two Florida locations allows the 74-year-old company to tap into a labor market Central Moloney is struggling with in Pine Bluff.

It also has not impacted daily production at the headquarters, Hart said, only alleviated a burden to meet customer demands.

"The only way for Central Moloney to grow is going to be by looking outside the borders of Jefferson County," Hart said. "I still continue to beat the drum that I need help from elected officials to do anything we can possibly do to enhance the ability to find people. We've made hundreds of thousands of dollars of commitments in the last two years to beef up [vocational-technical] training in local schools – and I promise you there's more local news of the money we're committing there – but we can't sit back and wait on the community to save us. We think the best direction for us is to tap into a new labor pool."

Print Headline: Central Moloney plans 2nd Florida plant


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