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    THE MONTGOMERY CHAMBER'S ‘SUCCESS STARTS HERE’ INITIATIVE HIGHLIGHTS GROWTH OF EXISTING INDUSTRIES

    The message was loud and clear: When a business adds employees, it plans to remain in the area.

    Although the 19 local companies cited in the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce’s “Success Starts Here” news conference added a combined 280 jobs – the most meaningful number was the preservation of 5,627 jobs.

    Now, the creation of 280 new jobs last year is something to boast about, as is a combined capital investment of $91.9 million, but both pale in comparison to securing those 5,627 existing jobs.

    Whitfield Foods, which bottles beverages and syrup, announced a nearly $1.3 million capital investment for a new project to produce 28-ounce Gatorade in a shrink sleeve bottle.

    “The project did not immediately increase the employees we have, but ensures that the employees we do have will remain there, and very well could increase the number of employees we have going forward, which is very key for us,” said Les Massey, president of Whitfield Foods. The company has 90 employees and the new capital investment helps Whitfield Foods keep “the jobs that we have,” Massey said.

    Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said that “while 280 jobs is a good number, it’s not the number. That number is the 5,700 jobs that we have assurance that they are going to be here tomorrow, because no company is going to invest and then move their employees. At the end of the day, it’s about these jobs because it’s the jobs that make the city and the county and the River Region go around.”

    One of the companies featured at the news conference is a newcomer to Montgomery – Conner Industries, which specializes in wood packaging. The company, which has 14 plants in nine states, came to Montgomery last year. “Montgomery has a very vibrant and growing industrial base,” plant manager Bryan Welch said. “Conner recognizes that and Conner wanted to be a part of that.”

    He said the company “invested a measly $150,000 basically on total speculation,” moving into a 30,000-square-foot facility.

    “Every dollar is important to us here in Montgomery, Alabama,” said Montgomery County Commission Chairman Elton N. Dean Sr. “We don’t just want your business. We want to be there to give you support … If you’re not successful, than we’re not successful.”

    Welch said the company has “10 new employees” and hopes to add another 20 next year and have 40 to 50 employees after two years.

    “We’ve settled in,” Welch said. “We know there’s some business out there. We really want to expand in this area. Conner is here to stay.”

    There is room to expand with a 20,000-square-foot building next to the company’s plant and Conner Industries has an option to lease the additional space, according to Nim Frazer, owner/manager of Industrial Partners.

    “At the Chamber, we feel like there is no economic development announcement any greater than when you have an existing industry expand,” said Leslie Sanders, the 2014 chairman of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

    Lear Corp., a tier 1 seat producer for Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama’s plant in Montgomery, added jobs last year and expects to again this year. Plant manager Duk Kim said that there will be a new program in 2015, “so I see us continue growing.” He said that when Hyundai expands the tier 1 suppliers also expand.

    Hyundai was on the list of 19 companies that either added jobs, made a capital investment or did both. The Korean automaker invested money retrofitting its engine No. 2 shop for the Elantra, which it hopes to complete by the second quarter. Seven of the 19 companies are automotive-related.

    MOBIS Alabama, another tier 1 supplier to Hyundai that manufactures front chassis modules, cockpit modules and rear chassis modules, expanded for a fifth straight year in 2014.

    DYVIS, which transports parts from such Hyundai suppliers as MOBIS Alabama, Daehan Solutions, Halla Climate Systems Alabama and Glovis Alabama to the Hyundai plant, also expanded in 2014. Some Hyundai suppliers, including SMART Alabama also use DYVIS software for the just-in-time, just-in-sequence parts process.

    Other companies among the 19 are PHA Body Systems, PCI Gaming, KJ USA, AEP, Norment Security Group, CS Eng, Burt Steel, Ozark Safety Services, Online Commerce Group, Kukdong and Premier Transportation.

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