O.K. Industries to add jobs, upgrade plants

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 40 views 

For the Fort Smith metro economy, Friday was good in that O.K. Industries announced it will add or return 182 jobs to its facilities in Fort Smith and Heavener, Okla.

The company announced the jobs are part of a $7 million renovation effort to improve processing facilities in Fort Smith and Heavener.

“The new team members will be hired over the next eight weeks and will principally work in chicken deboning and further processing roles. First priority will be given to placing previously furloughed employees into the new positions,” the company noted in a statement.

Donna Miller, corporate secretary with O.K. Foods, said the starting wage is $8.60 an hour, and that over time and with promotions, the pay may increase to $12.50 an hour. She said the hiring should be complete within the next 8 weeks, and should “dovetail” with plant improvements expected to be finished by early June.

The statement also noted that O.K. Industries employs more than 2,800 people. The company in previous years had employed up to 4,000.

“We are very pleased to have the opportunity to offer a place on our team to a significant number of new folks,” Ken Primm, COO of O.K. Foods, said in the statement. “I appreciate the good work our people have done — our need for more people is a direct result of their efforts in creating the Quality-Guarded products for which we are known.

Miller said the new investments and jobs are a function of new sales “avenues” and a desire by the new owners to upgrade facilities and equipment.

“Mostly I think it’s the way our management has taken the approach of finding some new niches and finding some new customers,” Miller said.

As of October 2011, OK Industries processed 2.5 million chickens per week, and had annual sales of about $600 million. The formerly Fort Smith-based company supplies grocery retailers, foodservice distributors and commodity customers in all U.S. as well as foreign markets. OK was purchased Nov. 1, 2011, by Celaya, Mexico-based Industrias Bachoco (NYSE: IBA) in an estimated $93.4 million deal.

Bachoco shares closed Thursday (April 5) at $19.57, down 88 cents. During the past 52 weeks, the share price has ranged from a $28.88 high to a $17.40 low.

Wendy’s, the third-largest U.S. quick-service hamburger restaurant company with more than 6,500 franchises and company restaurants, recently praised the use by O.K. Foods of a low atmospheric pressure system (LAPS) to kill chickens prior to processing.