Tour highlights industry impact

Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Touring local industries Luck E Strike President John Hendricks tours a group of interested chamber members through his Cassville-based manufacturing facility. In the photo above, the group stands by an area of the plant that is used to stage products for shipping to 40 Wal-Mart locations. According to Hendricks, Luck E Strike needs more space so it can prepare to ship its lures to 3,000 Wal-Mart locations in the next 18 months. The Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the Industrial Tour on June 5. Participating industries included Luck E Strike, Arning Canopy Systems, Justin Brands, Inc., and George's feed mill. More photos from the industrial tour appear on page 9 of this week's Cassville Democrat. Democrat Photo

The Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce hosted an industrial tour last Thursday that allowed interested citizens to tour four local industries that provide employment to over 400 area residents.

Justin Boot, Arning Canopy Systems, Luck E Strike and George's feed mill were the tour destinations during the four-hour event, which attracted the interest of about 45 chamber members.

"This is a great way for the chamber to showcase some of our industries, which provide so much to our local economy," said Chamber President Susie Jacobs.

Justin Boot

Justin Boot Cassville plant manager Frances Smith and plant superintendent Jeremy Williams led guided tours through the local Justin Brands, Inc., on June 5.

Prior to starting the tours, Smith and Williams explained the boot-making process from material ordering to finishing.

"Our (boot) last room is not here today," said Smith. "We are shutting that department back early because right now it is hard to get supplies from China."

As Justin Brands competes with boot makers in China, Mexico and India each year, the company continually looks for ways to keep production prices competitive, said Smith.

"It gets hard to make boots at a low price to compete," said Smith. "That is a lot of the reason why we specialize in exotic boots."

In addition to creating footwear with exotic hides, Justin Boot offers custom boots with special embroidery work, which are often ordered by professional sports teams and celebrities.

"We have a really good boss in Ft. Worth that fights to keep factories, like this one, going," said Smith.

The Justin Boot plants in Cassville produce over 285,000 pairs of boots annually. In addition, the Cassville plant produces over 350,000 six-piece insole sets for the Justin Brand's plant located in Carthage each year.

To help its 198 employees combat rising gas prices, the local manufacturing plant just recently switched its production schedule to four days a week instead of five.

Arning Canopy Systems

Groups of eight toured Arning Canopy Systems, Inc., and were able to see first hand how the company fabricates canopy systems for convenience stores, fast food restaurants and car washes.

According to company officials, some of Arning's biggest customers include Conoco, Kum and Go, Suds car washes and Sonic. The plant also manufactures awnings, kiosk buildings, structural steel building packages and ACM wall panels.

On the day of the tour, a number of employees were working on the pre-fabricated steel pieces that are assembled into Sonic drive-throughs across the country. Within just a few hours, Arning can send out a truck with the items needed to erect a new Sonic restaurant with each site built to suit the owner's specifications.

Arning also specializes in bridge components. Currently, one of Arning's bridges is being erected at the new Barry County Museum. Arning also supplies bridge materials for many of the Barry County bridge projects.

The company keeps a large inventory of its pre-fabricated steel products in a huge shipping yard located behind the plant, which allows for quick delivery to meet customers' busy construction schedules.

Currently, Arning has close to 100 employees working two shifts. In addition to its pre-fabricated canopy systems and building products, Arning also specializes in fabrication and design and sells commercial building materials.

Luck E Strike

While directing visitors through Luck E Strike's 34,000-square-foot facility, President John Hendricks took the opportunity to explain the company's need for additional manufacturing space.

"We need a new building badly," said Hendricks. "Right now, we ship to 40 Wal-Mart locations. Within 18 months, we need to be able to ship to 3,000 locations weekly. We will need a shipping area as big as our current building."

According to Hendricks, Wal-Mart represents $2 million in annual sales for the local company. He added that Bass Pro Shops was another large Luck E Strike customer.

The company, which specializes in fishing lures, sells its products in 15 to 16 different countries and at retail locations throughout the U.S. As one of only a few companies that keeps all of its products in stock, Luck E Strike requires a large warehouse.

"We have 6,000,000 to 8,000,000 lures and worms in stock at all times," said Hendricks.

Currently, Luck E Strike employs 56 people at the plant. The company also employs 50 homeworkers who package worms from home.

"About 35 percent of our packaging is done in homes around Barry County," said Hendricks.

George's Feed Mill

Tour participants had a rare opportunity to take a guided tour of George's new feed mill, which opened in the fall of 2007.

The state-of-the-art facility, which is located at the southwest corner of the intersection of Highways 37 and W, represents a $20 million investment by George's in southwest Missouri poultry production.

At full capacity, the mill will be able to produce 20,000 tons of feed a week. Currently, the mill is producing 7,500 to 8,000 tons of feed weekly.

The mammoth structure rises 170 feet into the air. Each feed bin is 140 feet tall and 35 feed wide with the capacity to hold 100,000 bushels of corn per bin. The mill's monthly utility bill, including electric and gas, runs about $60,000.

An integral part of the feed mill system is a 7,400 foot loop of railroad track that serves the facility. The track was built to handle a 110-car shuttle train, and the mill was constructed so that it has a capacity to unload 50,000 bushels of corn an hour from the train.

"It takes us 11 hours to unload 110 cars, and we have enough storage to hold two shuttle train loads," said Monty Henderson, president of George's who conducted one of the chamber tours through the mill. "Right now it costs $6.50 a bushel for corn delivered to Cassville. A shuttle train of 110 cars costs about $2.8 million."

In explaining how the mill produces feed, Henderson described the mill's 20,000-pound mixer as "the heart" of the operation.

"This is a mixer with a 200-tons-an-hour mixing capacity that can mix a batch of feed every three minutes," said Henderson.

One of the mill's other state-of-the-art features is a computerized receiving system that can unload 50,000 bushels of corn an hour and has the capability of testing every feed source that comes into the mill.

The mill also utilizes three 350-horsepower grinders, a cooler that can cool 65 tons of finished feed per hour and two pellet mills that can produce 65 tons of feed an hour. The facility currently produces 10 to 12 different feed diets with the ability to supply 200 to 250 farms from the Butterfield feed mill.

The feed mill currently employs 28. When it reaches full capacity, the feed mill payroll will grow to about 40 workers. Garland Henson serves as feed mill manager.

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