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Pafford honored as top homegrown industry

By John Miller, 08/23/22 8:11 PM

HOPE – Being recognized for your efforts is always a good feeling.

Tuesday afternoon, at Hempstead Hall, local businesses and industries were recognized for their accomplishments over the past year at the 36th Annual Hempstead County Economic Development Corporation’s (HCEDC) annual meeting and industry appreciation lunch.

Dr. Ladell Douglas, HCEDC chairman, announced the Best Homegrown Industry of the Year, presenting it to Pafford Medical Services. Douglas said Pafford set up shop in Hope in 1997 with around 20 employees and has expanded to four states, one U.S. territory serving 90 markets with more than 200 employees in Hempstead County and 280 in Southwest Arkansas. “It’s basically a service industry,” he said, “serving the public.” Pafford, he continued, provides both ground and air services, with four helicopters and three airplanes, along with integrated telecommunication services.

Jamie Pafford said taking care of others is the company’s core value and the joy of being able to help others is the best a person can have. “Pafford’s success is rooted in its communication and people believing in us. We’ve grown in the last three years because we listen to the needs of the people. I travel the world, looking at what others have and wonder why we don’t have it here. We want to provide people here with the same benefit you can get elsewhere. We’re grateful to be a part of Hempstead County and the EDC.”

The lunch began with the business meeting, with the president’s report being the major portion. Steve Harris, EDC president, recognized the board and members of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) present, telling the crowd economic development is a team effort. He announced there were no industry closures in Hempstead County in the past year and there have been four expansions with Tyson’s, New Millennium, Pafford and Brentwood all expanding. “Our manufacturing base is in good shape,” he said, adding the EDC has more projects it’s working on this year to grow the industrial base even more.

One of the major aspects of growth, he said, is being able to provide an adequate workforce. The EDC, he continued, has been working on a regional basis, but has also been working with the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana, and the Hope public school system. Thursday, he added, there will be an event at the Hope High School cafeteria for students to apply for internships with local industry.

Harris said it’s important to make sure young people know they don’t have to leave the area to find jobs.

The business meeting was adjourned allowing the annual meeting to begin.

Randy King, plant director at Tyson Foods, was the keynote speaker. He talked about how the plant literally ran out of space at its processing plant and needed to have a county road ran to the plant.  “It’s a daily challenge to feed the world,” he said, “and we must keep growing.”

King told the audience by 2024 Tyson will add more than 300,000 birds per week to its total in the processing plant, which means the company will need more chicken houses, hatching facilities and drivers. “We welcome the growth, but we couldn’t grow without the help of the community leaders.”

In talking about the feed mill, King said work on a new one started in 2020 and was completed in 2.5 years, as it began operation this past May. It’s still a learning process, but it’s up and running. It’s been a journey.” This, he continued, is a state-of-the-art mill employing about 62 people, and five or six more drivers than expected. This plant can process 1.9 million birds per week with the goal to reach 2.2 million birds per week locally. Company-wide, he sad, the goal is to go from 32 million birds per week to 37 million.

Locally, he added, Tyson is in the “crawling stage” for the hatchery, but the groundwork is being done. “We’ll be online with it in 2024 and tear down the old hatchery. This will be one of Tyson’s largest hatchery’s.”

In discussing “team members” as employees are called, h said 48 percent come from Hempstead County, with 9.5 percent coming from Miller County and 8.5 percent from Nevada County, with around 1,350 employees locally. One problem, he said, is the hiring process is slow and can take up to two weeks. This, he told the crowd, is being streamlined.

Adding new houses, he said, will be a problem because of inflation. Tyson will need 100-110 new houses to raise chickens for its processing plants.

Steve Lance, EDC vice chair, presented the New Investor Award to Dwane and Catherine Rowe, saying they’ve made a big impact  locally and are county people who chose to sty and make their living here.

Next up was the New Industry of the Year Award, which went to Danson’s. Ed Darling, EDC treasurer, said the EDC met with a group of potential investors in 2020 at the airport. The company was founded in 1999, but had a vision, wanting to turn waste into an energy product. The visitors toured the Georgia Pacific building, decided it fit their needs and set up shop. Initially, they company had three machines making 100,00o pounds of pellets a year, but will be adding a fourth machine. The company expanded, buying a couple of grill companies, with the Pit Boss grill now the top privately made grill sold in the  nation. Darling pointed out the grills and pellets can be bought locally at Walmart and Atwood’s.

Danson’s, he said, employs more than 50 people and offers good wages and benefits.

Bud Crite, plant manager, accepted the New Industry Award, saying the company is proud of what it does, adding it’s fun. Making grills and pellets, he said, brings families together, and the recent COVID situation resulted in an increase in sales of both grills and pellets. The company, he continued, has plans to add fifth and sixth machines as it has room to grow, along with other projects.

The existing industry of the year award was presented by Hempstead County Judge Jerry Crane. The award went to Tysons.