Owens Corning to build a new plant in Fort Smith, add five jobs

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 5,527 views 

Toledo, Ohio-based Owens Corning is building a new 550,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Fort Smith that will replace the existing plant the company built in 1984. The estimated $115 million project is expected to add five jobs.

The new facility will be on the east side of Arkansas Highway 45 and just south of the Americold (former Zero Mountain) cold storage operation. Industrial revenue bonds approved Dec. 15, 2020, by the Fort Smith Board of Directors puts the value of the project at $115 million, with $20 million of that for an associated warehouse. The warehouse was not mentioned in Monday’s press release from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC). The board also approved spending $450,000 for “ingress and egress infrastructure.”

Gov. Asa Hutchinson provided $250,000 from the Governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund to support road construction around the new plant. The company also qualified for the Advantage Arkansas Program and the Tax Back Program, according to Chelsea O’Kelley, AEDC director of communications.

According to the AEDC, Owens Corning will retain its 79 full-time workers at the existing Fort Smith and hire five more workers. The new plant is expected to begin production in mid-2023, and the existing plant will be “retired.”

“Owens Corning appreciates the support provided by Governor Hutchinson, the Fort Smith Board of Directors, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce throughout the planning process,” Marcio Sandri, president of the Composites business at Owens Corning, said in a statement. “We’re proud to have been part of the Fort Smith community for more than three decades and we look forward to future growth. With this new state-of-the-art facility, Owens Corning is investing in the future of Fort Smith and our business.”

Owens Corning’s existing Fort Smith plant – located near the Gerdau (MacSteel) plant – began production in 1984, and produces mat for roofing shingles and other nonwoven products. The new plant will also produce roofing mat and add production capacity to meet the growing demand for the company’s other building material applications.

“It is always a good day in Arkansas when one of our companies increases its investment in our communities and our economy,” Gov. Hutchinson said in a statement. “Owens Corning is a well-respected company, globally and here in Arkansas, and I am confident of their success in the future.”

Owens Corning employs 19,000 people in 33 countries, and posted total 2020 revenue of $7.055 billion, down from $7.166 billion in 2019. The company has three integrated business units that produce a broad range of insulation, roofing and fiberglass composite materials.

“The Owens Corning expansion is a perfect example of the partnership between the Arkansas Department of Commerce, Chamber, and the City of Fort Smith and how we work together toward one unified goal,” Tim Allen, president and CEO of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, noted in the press release. “The focus with this project was economic development and job retention/creation. Owens Corning has a great reputation in the region and having them recognize our resources and top-notch workforce is one of the strongest endorsements possible. Thank you to Owens Corning for their continued investment in our community.”

The Owens Corning project is the third significant manufacturing expansion announced in Fort Smith during the past two months.

Jonesboro-based Hytrol announced Jan. 4 plans to invest more than $20 million to open a manufacturing operation in Fort Smith that will employ up to 250 within five years. The new operation will locate in 300,000 square feet of the former Whirlpool building. The company manufactures conveyer belt systems and other material handling systems for a wide variety of businesses, including those involved in the booming e-commerce sector.

Officials with Mars Petcare announced Jan. 15 a $145 million expansion of the company’s plant at Chaffee Crossing that will create more than 120 jobs.