story by Kim Souza
For the second time in a week, Northwest Arkansas’ manufacturing sector was handed a slap in the face as jobs are being moved elsewhere amid corporate consolidations. APEX Tool, formerly Danaher Tool, employs roughly 250 workers whose jobs will be moving to South Carolina in 2015.
"APEX Tool Group has made the difficult decision to close our manufacturing facilities in Dallas, Texas and Springdale, Ark., by the end of 2015, and to consolidate production of our Made in the USA brands to an existing facility we own in Sumter, S.C.,” the APEX Tool Group noted in a statement. “We plan to add 150 to 200 jobs in Sumter to handle this additional capacity, and our associates in Dallas and Springdale whose jobs are impacted will have the first opportunity to apply for these positions. All three of these facilities are operating substantially below capacity so we need to consolidate these manufacturing operations in order to be competitive and serve our customers efficiently.”
APEX confirmed the local layoffs will begin in 2015 and the local plant employment is 250.
“We were informed today of the corporate decision. … We have known for some time that plant consolidation was part of the company’s long range plans. We were the beneficiary of this strategy in 2009 when we were able to assist our local plant in securing consolidated tool lines from New York at the time APEX Tool Group was formed by Danaher Tool Group and another tool firm,” said Perry Webb, Springdale Chamber of Commerce president.
Webb said the plant has been part of Springdale’s economy for more than 45 years and it was hard to hear the official word.
“While this is a setback, it is our understanding that there will be no immediate layoffs. That gives us time to mitigate the impact of this announcement through continued job creation in Springdale,” he added.
APEX closed a plant in Gastonia, N.C., in June of 2013 after production of Craftsman tools was shifted to the Texas plant and to China. A year later the Texas plant is set to close as well. The consolidations have come under the ownership of Bain Capital, who purchased Danaher and Cooper Tools early last year.
“I am disappointed to hear of the corporate decision to move Springdale’s plant to another state and am saddened for the employees and their families who are impacted. APEX Tool Group, and Danaher Tool before it, have been excellent corporate citizens for many years. Layoffs are never good news but we are confident our strong local economy will continue to create quality jobs that can address the demand created by this announcement,” said Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse.
The APEX Tool news comes on the heels of the Superior Industries decision announced July 30 to shutter its plant in Rogers, which will result in the loss of 500 local jobs.
There were 26,300 manufacturing jobs in Northwest Arkansas as of June, the Superior and APEX Tool closures will mean a 2.85% decrease in the overall sector, according to Kathy Deck, director for the Center for Economic Research at the University of Arkansas. While the news is not surprising, Deck said swallowing the losses is not easy, even for a growing economy like Northwest Arkansas.