story and photos by Ryan Saylor
A Van Buren factory has increased its staffing levels and broke ground Friday (Feb. 14) on a 10,000-square-foot expansion of its existing facility.
Arkansas Lamp, which largely services the domestic and international hospitality industry with lighting fixtures, said the expanded facility will make its Van Buren facility a total of 100,000-square-foot, space that will be needed as the company expands its product line into LED lighting, according to President Jeff Null.
"What we've wanted to do for some time is we wanted to expand to something beyond hospitality and we think that the business we showed a little bit as we walked through, that LED business, is going to be the lever that will allow us to do some different things."
Null said the family-owned Arkansas Lamp, which his parents bought from founder Jim Moreland in 1997, was approached by Cree Lighting about branching out into the new business venture.
"Cree is to LED what Intel is to PCs. They're the chip that's inside virtually every LED, but they don't do decorative lighting. They came to us, little us in Arkansas, to partner up to do some projects with."
The partnership, Null said, would allow the company to expand to industries like multi-family housing and other commercial enterprises.
As part of the building expansion, which will cost the company about $300,000 and with assistance from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Null said the company had increased staff by 30% during the last six months.
"Quite a few of those are temporaries, but those will probably become permanent," he said, adding that the company's August employment count was 45 employees while its staffing at the time of Friday's groundbreaking stood at 59 employees.
CEO Robert Null, President Jeff Null's father, said as the company has grown from Moreland's garage at its founding in 1972 to the expansion today, the company had changed and grown over time, eventually locating in April 1999 to the 9.6 acres it occupies near the Van Buren Industrial Park.
And even with several expansions in the 15 years Arkansas Lamp has been at its present location, the elder Null said he expected the location to be large enough with its three remaining acres to accommodate even additional growth in future years.
Van Buren Mayor Bob Freeman said while much of the area was unaware of Arkansas Lamp, he recalled that only about 1% of the items assembled by the company actually stayed in Arkansas, with the rest going to hotels across the nation and the globe.
"This is one of these hidden gems in Van Buren, Arkansas, that 99.9% of the people don't even know what's going on. But when you think about it and look at what they do…it reaches out and touches all over the world."
Freeman said many in the community are unaware of the growth of many local businesses.
"Fortunately, since I've been mayor and (previously) on the planning commission, I've seen these expansions and growth and the next one that's happening," he said, adding that the addition of new jobs would help not only Arkansas Lamp continue to grow, but it would help families and the economy in the Van Buren area.
"Folks, that's 14 families. Fourteen families that are impacted and continue to be impacted, one family at a time. And again how blessed we are and we thank you for what you do in our community."
Cameron Hubbs, whose self-titled construction company is building the expansion for Arkansas Lamp, said the building should be completed by late April or early May of this year.