Fort Smith-based Harry G. Barr & Co. is beginning a three-stage process as part of a planned $10 million expansion of its office and manufacturing space that should result in 100 more jobs for the window and door manufacturer.
The facility, located at 6500 S. Zero St., is “tapped out” in terms of room to meet the continued demand from residential housing construction in the 12 states in which the company – with products branded as WeatherBarr Windows and Doors – has sales, said company President Michael Barr. He said the first phase of the work will be a parking lot and entrance/exit that is more convenient and safer for employees. The second phase will include office space, a new employee breakroom, some space for more production capacity, and 18,000 square feet of room for “outbound distribution” space.
The third phase is for now on the books as 50,000 square feet of space for raw material storage. The timing of construction on the third phase and its use could change depending on the pace of demand for windows and doors.
“I think it will. I think it has a good chance to continue. Even if there is a little blip, it wouldn’t be so bad because it would be like turning the stove down a little bit,” Barr said when asked if the pace of residential construction will continue. “The housing market is just really unbelievable right now. … It’s a function of the low interest rates.”
Barr said the expansion will allow the company to handle more sales orders. He said many window and door manufacturers around the country also are not able to keep up with demand. The latest report from the U.S. Census Bureau (June 16) had May housing permits nationwide at a seasonally adjusted rate of 1.681 million, up 34.9% compared with May 2020.
The company is seeking approval from the Fort Smith Board of Directors for the use of Industrial Revenue Bonds for the project. Such bonds, common in helping finance business expansions, allow a company to make payments in lieu of taxes. If the resolution is approved, Harry G. Barr will pay 40% of the company’s property tax liability on the property for 15 years.
“WeatherBarr Windows & Doors proposes that their expansion will house additional manufacturing space for its windows and doors. The expansion project is estimated at $10 million. In addition to the significant production expansion and the retention of their current employees, the company will be adding 100 new jobs with an approximate average wage of $17.50 per hour,” noted a memo from Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman included in the meeting packet for the board’s Tuesday (July 6) meeting.
The Fort Smith metro had an estimated 16,700 manufacturing jobs in May, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That estimate was up from 16,600 in April and better than the 16,400 in May 2020. The region’s manufacturing sector had a record employment of 31,200 in June 1999.