Bekaert to expand Van Buren operation, add 38 jobs

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 936 views 

Bekaert Corporation announced Wednesday (May 1) it will expand its Van Buren manufacturing facility, creating 38 new jobs. The jobs, when benefits and overtime are included, pay around $75,000 annually, according to the company.

The new jobs, which will pay about $22 an hour, will be added this year through the completion of the expansion, which is expected in 2025. The plant now employs around 450. The company will hire for a range of positions in Van Buren, said Randy McClaren Jr., Bekaert Van Buren plant manager.

This is the company’s latest expansion at its Van Buren facility. In November 2021, the company announced an expansion to increase its wire stranding production capabilities, which created 35 new jobs at the facility. A global leader in the steel wire transformation and coating technology sector, Belgium-based Bekaert produces steel wire and strands at the Van Buren facility. The company has operated in Van Buren since 1970, and also operates a manufacturing operation in Rogers, Ark.

As part of the expansion, the company is purchasing new manufacturing equipment to produce products used in the electrical grid and telecommunications industries. McClaren said the expansion is strictly equipment. They are not increasing the footprint of the Van Buren facility. However, he said the land Bekaert owns at the facility will allow for future expansion. McClaren said the expansion deals exclusively with steel cores Bekaert makes for electric transmission lines.

“Our steel cores are what keep those (electrical lines) from dipping or sagging or blowing around,” McClaren said.

The Van Buren facility also makes barbed wire and other products that are not part of the expansion, he said.

Dan Berkowitz, market manager of the energy and utilities division of Bekaert, said the strain on the country’s electrical grid has grown at an unprecedented rate.

“It is essential that we find innovative solutions to meet this demand,” Berkowitz said. “The U.S. is experiencing a surge in electricity consumption. With the rise of electric vehicles and the expansion of smart cities and an increasing adoption of renewable energy, our grid is under immense pressure to deliver reliable and efficient power to every corner of the country. … These steel cores are at the forefront of modern power transmission technology, enabling us to meet a growing demand for electricity while ensuring efficiency and reliability.”

Berkowitz said the steel cores offer conductivity at a 24% efficiency increase over traditional conductors, meaning power can be delivered to even the most remote locations without significant losses. They also are durable and help increase transmission capacity using the same right of way footprint, he said.

Clint O’Neal, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said Arkansas offered economic incentives to Bekaert for the expansion including Advantage Arkansas, an income tax credit program based on total payroll, and Tax Back, a refund on sales taxes.

Van Buren Mayor Joe Hurst said Bekaert’s latest expansion is great for Van Buren on many levels.

“Not only will Bekaert’s investment improve the local economy, but it strengthens the company’s overall commitment to this community. Bekaert is a tremendous supporter of our community, and we look forward to many years ahead of collaboration and partnership,” Hurst said.

Julie Murray, Van Buren Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said the expansion “also reaffirms Van Buren’s commitment to fostering a business-friendly environment that supports growth, innovation, and prosperity.”

“We are so grateful for Bekaert’s continued partnership and investment in our community. We look forward to the positive impact it will have on our regional economy,” she said.