Rheem, which produced its first unit in Fort Smith in August 1970, is investing another $20 million into the Fort Smith plant in an expansion that will add an estimated 100 jobs, the company announced Monday (Nov. 7).
Atlanta-based Rheem said the investment is part of its 10-year strategy to “Invest to grow, innovate to lead, and deliver on commitments.” The company also said the Fort Smith plant remains its headquarters for the U.S. air conditioning business and the production of HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) equipment.
Rheem now employs around 900 in Fort Smith. Web-based employment search platforms Indeed and Glassdoor show Rheem Fort Smith production jobs starting at $26 an hour, which would put gross annual wages near $50,000.
Michelle Caldwell, senior manager, Marketing at Rheem, said the pay listed by the two employment firms is “an average of many wage categories, including senior positions, and does not necessarily reflect the starting hourly wage for facility employees.” Rheem would not provide pay info on the planned new jobs.
“We are excited to expand our operations in Fort Smith,” Andrew Welch, director of Operations, Rheem Air Conditioning Division, noted in a statement sent by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. “This expansion demonstrates our committed partnership with the state and rewards the Fort Smith community – enabling our continued growth and leadership.”
In addition to the 100 new jobs, the company also plans to add production capacity and make facility and grounds improvements. Improvements will include a new Innovation Learning Center (ILC), which will allow training distributors and contractors to work with Rheem products and learn about product improvement. Improvements will also include a new entrance and traffic flow patterns to improve safety, access, and congestion.
“We are excited to see Rheem grow and succeed in Fort Smith,” Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said. “Rheem is creating both corporate and manufacturing jobs that spur economic development and raise the quality of life for employees and their families.”
The jobs will be added to what was once the largest job sector in the Fort Smith metro. Manufacturing jobs were at an estimated 18,300 in September, up from 17,400 in September 2021. Metro manufacturing jobs peaked at 31,200 in June 1999.
Founded in 1925, Rheem produces HVAC equipment, water heaters, commercial and residential boilers, and commercial refrigeration equipment. The company, owned by Japan-based Paloma, has more than 40 global brands, including Rheem, Ruud, SureComfort, Russell, Witt, Kramer, ColdZone and Friedrich.