The ground-breaking ceremony Wednesday at the Nashville, Ark., Husqvarna plant symbolized an investment in America and confidence in Nashville.
The Husqvarna Group is expanding operations at the plant beginning with construction of a 350,000-square-foot warehouse. It will be located adjacent to the manufacturing facility where chainsaws, trimmers, blowers, pole saws and hedge trimmers are produced.
The company, a global manufacturer of outdoor power equipment, has not determined the number of additional jobs that will be created at the Nashville facility. The plant employs about 830 people, and the company employees in the Nashville area total about 1,100.
The warehouse will consolidate operations located in De Queen and Shreveport, La. The building should be fully operational by the end of 2018, company officials said.
The move will be followed by closing the De Queen plant, as well as the Shreveport, La., facility.
Jim Moore, vice president of the supply chain for Husqvarna, said the project shows the company continues to invest in America.
"Our competitors invest in overseas markets and we're investing in America in plants in South Carolina, Arkansas and Georgia," said Moore.
"It shows what made in America means," said Steve Harvill, the Nashville plant manager.
The ground breaking also recognized 12 employees who have worked for more than 40 years at the Nashville facility.
"It's good we can say 'Made in America.' It's something you don't see much anymore," said Shirley Vaughan, who has worked nearly 41 years at the plant.
"I didn't have a driver's license when I got a job. They pay good and have good benefits," said Vaughan, who lives near Columbus, Ark., and is a machine operator.
Joy Hale of Mineral Springs, who went to work with the company in December 1976, agreed with her co-workers. "They treat people right," she said.
The Nashville Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mike Reese said the project also shows confidence in Nashville.
"It tells me two things. Husqvarna is interested in staying in Nashville and to make the plant more efficient. This also helps the company stay more competitive on the world market. It's very good for Nashville and Husqvarna," he said.
"They're a member of the chamber of commerce and we would do anything we can to help them. They could have gone to other places, but they're serious about staying here. One reason is the workforce. We have a great workforce and great work ethic. We feel the same way for Tyson. They expanded about three years ago and Pilgrim Pride is building a new plant about six miles out of town," Reese said.
Nashville Mayor Billy Ray Jones said the project "is a good thing and the best thing to happen in a long time."
State Sen. Larry Teague attributed the project to the workforce.
"We have a quality of life and people who want to work," Teague said.
The Shreveport facility employs about 44 people and will be closed. The De Queen location has about 19 employees and will be consolidated with Nashville facilities.
Once the new facility is operational, the Nashville manufacturing footprint will total 874,000 square feet.
Shreveport and De Queen employees, to the extent possible, will be offered employment in Nashville.
Husqvarna also flipped the switch Wednesday on the the outdoor power equipment industry's first solar "farm" to generate electricity at its injection molding plant in Nashville.
The facility is projected to generate about 25 percent of the plant's annual needs and thus reduce the environmental impact of greenhouse gases. The electricity generated at the five-acre facility will be sold back to the SWEPCO grid.
The solar farm was built on a large industrial space at the company's injection molding plant located north of Nashville at the former Oxbodies manufacturing site.
A company press release notes the solar plant will actually mean no new jobs. The release said the facility is part of Husqvarna's "sustainability journey."
The solar plant will be able to produce up to 1.3 million watts of solar power, and is a part of the company's plan to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by a third.