Jonesboro-based Hytrol Conveyor Co. said Thursday (Sept. 2) it plans to hire another 100 workers at its Fort Smith manufacturing plant to operate a new product line. The expansion would bring employment in Fort Smith to around 350.
The expansion announcement comes eight months after the company announced in January it would lease 300,000 square feet in what was once a warehouse for Whirlpool and invest $20 million in a new conveyer production plant. The company has since hired about 250 in Fort Smith.
Hytrol plans to produce its 24-volt (e24™) line of conveyors in Fort Smith. Production is expected to begin in late September and will require 100 new positions in Fort Smith and new jobs in the Jonesboro facility. The company said the new jobs should be in place by the end of 2021.
“We designed this new facility with future expansion and capacity in mind,” Phillip Poston, director of Fort Smith operations, said in a statement. “The success of the parcel project gave our leaders the confidence to move forward with this new product line in Fort Smith.”
Hytrol President David Peacock said the decision to expand was based on various factors.
“From local to the state level, the support and leadership we continue to partner with in this expansion is top-tier,” Peacock said. “This has been a huge project for everyone involved, and the teams of people working both within Hytrol and outside of Hytrol gave us the confidence to commit to expanding further.”
Hytrol told Talk Business & Politics no jobs would be lost in Jonesboro as a result of the Fort Smith expansion. The company employs approximately 1,600.
Hytrol manufactures conveyer belt systems and other material handling systems for a wide variety of businesses, including those involved in the booming e-commerce sector. Hytrol was founded by Tom Loberg in Wisconsin in 1947, and relocated to Jonesboro in 1962.
Hytrol has more than 700,000 square feet of production space and 48,000 square feet of research and development space in two facilities in Jonesboro that employ more than 1,200 people. The company also develops software for conveyors and warehouse management.
The estimated 350 new Hytrol jobs in 2021 should help the troubled Fort Smith metro manufacturing sector. The sector employed an estimated 16,900 in July, up from 16,300 in July 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The employment is well below peak sector employment of 31,200 in June 1999. Average annual employment peaked at 30,600 in 1999, fell to 20,800 in 2010 and was 16,800 in 2020.
CONVEYOR SECTOR GROWTH
The conveyor belt production sector is expected to see significant growth in the next few years. Global Market Insights said the market was valued at $4 billion in 2019 and should see compounded annual growth of 5.8% between 2020 and 2026. Allied Market Research valued the industry at $5.665 billion in 2020 and estimated it will reach $7.573 billion in 2022.
In a January 2021 report, Markets and Markets said the manufacturing of conveyor belt systems should reach $10.6 billion by 2025.
“Higher adoption of automation processes in various end-use industries and rising demand for handling larger volumes of goods are the driving factors that are expected to boost the conveyor system market,” noted the report.
Report authors also said consumer and supply chain shifts caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic will drive sector growth.
“As per MnM projections, the industry is expected to recover at a significant rate during the forecast period due to the increase in the demand for automated conveyor systems during the post-COVID-19 scenario as compared to the pre-COVID-19 scenario,” the report said.