Hytrol Conveyor thrives in pandemic, post-pandemic world

by George Jared ([email protected]) 1,137 views 

NEA Outstanding Business of the Year Award
Hytrol Conveyor
Large Employer award

One of Jonesboro’s largest businesses has been aggressively expanding during the pandemic and in the post-pandemic world. Hytrol Conveyor, a company that makes conveyor systems, is projected to do about $350 million in business during 2022, Hytrol President David Peacock told Talk Business & Politics.

The company’s expansions in Jonesboro and Fort Smith led to its selection as the Talk Business & Politics NEA Outstanding Business of the Year Award in the Large Employer Division. The award is presented by QualChoice.

“It is an honor to be selected as the Northeast Arkansas Business of the Year — Large Employer Division. We are blessed to be located in Northeast Arkansas and part of this vibrant business environment. This recognition is a direct reflection on the folks we have at Hytrol. Tom Loberg is often quoted for saying we have the best employees, and I could not be any prouder of our team,” Peacock said.

Earlier this summer, Hytrol and Haag Brown Commercial Real Estate and Development, through its holding company, Real Estate for e-Commerce, began building a new warehouse and distribution center at the e-Commerce Park in Jonesboro. The 150,000 square foot facility will provide easy access to Interstate 555 and will serve as Hytrol’s main warehouse.

Hytrol and Haag Brown will be partners in the deal. Financial terms were not divulged, but it is expected to be complete in the spring of 2023. The facility will indirectly create space for functions within the Hytrol facility for growth in its administrative functions, including its panel shop and non-manufacturing support activities that include the company’s engineering department.

It’s the second Arkansas expansion by Hytrol during the last 13 months. The Jonesboro-based company announced plans in September 2021 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. That expansion announcement came eight months after the company in January 2021 leased 300,000 square feet in what was once a warehouse for Whirlpool and invested $20 million in a new conveyor production plant.

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 1,500 people. The company also develops software for conveyors and warehouse management.

Hytrol manufactures conveyor 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.

An explosion in the e-commerce market has led to a surge in conveyor system sales, Peacock said. Putting together a high functioning workforce has taken many years to cultivate and finding high quality workers will be among the company’s top challenges in the years to come.

“It is very difficult to plan for the growth we have experienced. What we did was assemble a team that embraced the opportunity and the challenges that accompany those opportunities. Putting this team together wasn’t something done in the last four or five years,” he said. “In a lot of cases, the foundation of the team goes back decades. What was also required was empowering the team to act. If we are going to embrace opportunity, team members are required to be comfortable in their role of evaluating and acting when an issue presents itself. They have grown significantly in this area, but we must continue to push empowerment into the organization.”