State report: 120 new jobs added in 2014

Published 12:03 am Friday, June 5, 2015

Existing industry continues to grow; CCEDC makes them priority in 2015

Three local companies added nearly 120 new jobs to the Covington County workforce in 2014, according to a statewide report.

According tot the 2014 New & Expanding Industry Announcements report, American Apparel in Opp added nearly 80 new jobs in 2014.

The city of Opp provided the company with $15,000 to purchase needed machinery to allow the company to operate with a minimum of 50 employees over the next five years.

The company secured military defense contracts to make Marine uniforms and Afghan police force.

Earlier this year, it was announced that the company would add 75 to 90 more jobs after securing another military contract to make Army combat uniforms.

The company also received Gold Star designation as part of the Department of Defense’s Superior Supplier Incentive Program.

This was welcomed news in the local community after 226 employees were laid off in May 2013 when the company did not win a military contract it was expecting.

Peggy Henderson, general manager of American Apparel said the company currently employs 176 people.

“We have eight experienced positions open right now,” she said. “I’m taking applications any day of the week.”

Henderson said she thought she could get at least 120 of the 226 employees laid off to come back to work.

“When we hit 80, that topped it off,” she said. “A lot of them retired and others had found work other places.”

Henderson said the training for the jobs is hard and she is building the production from the ground up.

“I don’t mind training people,” she said. “But we do need some experienced people to work for us.”

Global Aerospace and Defense Manufacturing – formerly Alabama Aerospace Manufacturing — added 20 new jobs to its company in 2014.

And in February it was announced that those 20 jobs had been preserved and another 20 could be added thanks to a nearly $100,000 grant to help with drainage issues near the firm.

The company produces parts and products for airplanes and helicopters and is in the process of upgrading and expanding the facilities, which was acquired by Georgia Aerospace and Defense Manufacturing.

Global President Chris Russo said the company is up to 35 total employees.

“It is our goal to get to around 80 employees by this time next year,” he said. “We started with seven machines this time last year and we have 22 machines. It’s totally different place than it was this time last year.”

The city of Opp was able to secure more grant funds for the Douglas Avenue improvement project, with an estimated cost of $719.115, with the city contributing $110,000 and the rest being paid for through grants.

Opp Mayor John Bartholomew said it is extremely important for city officials to work with existing businesses to increase the number of employees there.

Huhtamaki added 20 new jobs in 2014, which was in addition to jobs added in 2013 after the company announced a $1.9 million expansion project.

Shane Parks of Hutahmaki said those new jobs were as result of adding 12-hours shifts at the company.

Covington County Economic Development Commission President Rick Clifton said his staff has made it a priority to focus on existing business.

“We can’t afford not to work with existing businesses,” he said. “They are our greatest source of job growth.”

Clifton said that Jacob Morgan, who works with him at CCEDC, has been visiting local businesses to find out what their needs are, how the commission can help and how to help keep them stable.

“One hundred jobs to this community means we are more than holding our own,” he said.