The first big jobs announcement for Gov. Asa Hutchinson took place Friday (Jan. 23) in Clarksville. It is there that HanesBrands is adding 120 jobs as part of a $1.4 million investment in the building and equipment that brings manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.
HanesBrands is moving hosiery production from Honduras to the Clarksville plant. When the 120 jobs are realized, the company will employ 570 in the county seat of Johnson County. The 120 new jobs will average approximately $39,000 per year in wages and benefits, a $4.7 million economic infusion into the local economy each year, according to information provided by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
“As companies continue to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., we are committed to making Arkansas a leader in job creation and manufacturing,” Gov. Hutchinson said in the statement. “Thanks to HanesBrands for its decision to make this significant expansion in Arkansas. The fact the company chose to expand this specific facility demonstrates the quality of our workforce in Clarksville.”
A statement from the office of U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, said the expansion is supported by $400,000 in “state flexibility funds.” Travis Stephens, CEO and chief economic development officer for the Clarksville-Johnson County Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the HanesBrands expansion was the chamber’s “first opportunity to utilize our local economic development funds for incentives and partner with the state to help attract more jobs to Clarksville.”
HanesBrands’ Clarksville facility primarily produces sheer hosiery along with seamless bras. It is one of the largest hosiery knitting facilities in the world. The expansion is a result of the company’s effort to bring manufacturing of department store and fashion hosiery back to the United States. The plant already makes the company’s hosiery for mass retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores.
“We are delighted to be able to add jobs at our Clarksville plant,” Javier Chacon, Hanes senior vice president of global operations, said in the AEDC statement. “It is not easy for a U.S. plant to compete with offshore competitors, but the capabilities of our plant workforce and management team in Clarksville to continuously adapt, automate and improve efficiency is a testament to the resiliency of this facility since it opened in 1988.”
According to the AEDC, HanesBrands is unique in the apparel industry in that it primarily operates its own manufacturing facilities. More than 90% of the apparel sold by Hanes worldwide and in the U.S. are manufactured in company-owned plants or those of dedicated contractors.
Founded in 1901, Hanes is headquartered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The company is ranked No. 530 on the Fortune 1000 list and has approximately 56,000 employees in more than 25 countries.
The 120 jobs gained in Clarksville could help the state offset the loss of the same number of jobs lost in Fort Smith with the idling of Saint-Gobain’s proppant plant. The drop in energy prices and the subsequent drop in demand for energy-industry products resulted in Saint-Gobain closing its Fort Smith operation. The cuts were effective Wednesday (Jan. 21).
Arkansas’ manufacturing has seen an uptick in jobs during 2014, but is still far below historic levels. Manufacturing jobs in Arkansas during November totaled 157,100, up from 155,800 in October and above the 151,800 in November 2013. Employment in the manufacturing sector fell in 2013 to levels not seen since early 1968. Peak employment in the sector was 247,300 in February 1995.