story by Michael Tilley
Spartan Logistics plans to expand its operations in Fort Smith by acquiring the almost 620,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution facility that is part of the Whirlpool manufacturing site that ceased operations in June 2012. The larger Whirlpool manufacturing building and ground remains dormant.
Columbus, Ohio-based Spartan, which announced in October 2013 it was leasing about 100,000 square foot of space within the Whirlpool distribution building, now employs 12 in Fort Smith with total employment possibly rising to around 200 when the space is fully utilized. Ed Harmon, chairman of Spartan Logistics and president of its associated industrial development and real estate company, told The City Wire that not all of the new employees would work for Spartan, but may work for Spartan clients within the facility.
Spartan Logistics is a second generation family business with more than 25 years in the business of supply chain solutions. The company employs 300 in and operates 17 locations in four states. The company has more than 3 million square feet of space under management.
The company also manages two building in Little Rock for customers, with customer-support operations also in California.
“We’re basically from New York to California,” Harmon said when asked about the Spartan service area.
Harmon also stressed that Spartan and its associated companies provide “one-stop shopping” to many Fortune 500 companies with a packaging handling, light manufacturing, packaging assembly, inventory controls, shipping and other needs. Harmon said it’s likely the company may expand or build new structures on the property it acquires from Whirlpool to provide specialized assembly or warehousing needs.
“We’ve done this in the past with other sites throughout the country that we have purchased,” Harmon said. “We’re very enthused to be in Fort Smith … and know that we’ll have a lot of those opportunities there.”
The deal with Whirlpool is expected to close later this year. However, the deal with Whirlpool allows Spartan to immediately begin operating in the entire facility.
“Whirlpool has been great to work with in this process and although they regret closing this facility, they want to see it put quickly back into productive use and contribute to the Fort Smith economy,” Harmon said in a statement provided by the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Tim Allen, president and CEO of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, said Spartan’s decision is important because it shows that the property is active.
“The sale of the Whirlpool facility to Spartan Logistics is outstanding news for this community. Spartan Logistics believes Fort Smith will play an important role in the company’s strategic plan. To have a world-class company like Spartan Logistics permanently located on that property will help bring that area of Fort Smith back to life,” Allen said in the statement.
Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool Corp. announced in October 2011 it would close the Fort Smith plant. The eventual June 2102 closure of the plant marked the end of more than 45 years of Whirlpool operations in Fort Smith. Employment at the refrigerator production plant ranged from a high of 4,600 in early 2006 to around 1,000 when the plant closed.