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Former FMI plant to expand, add 245 jobs

Innovative Hearth Products, the parent company of the former Russellville FMI plant, officially announced Thursday that they will be expanding the local manufacturing plant and adding close to 250 new jobs.

The company, which produces indoor and outdoor fireplaces, fireplace inserts, free-standing stoves, gas log sets and fireplace accessories, held a groundbreaking ceremony on Friday for the 210,000 square feet expansion that will house the manufacturing and distribution for the eastern half of North America, as well as the national customer center.

Mark Klein, CEO of Innovative Hearth Products, said he was proud and honored to announce such exciting news for the state of Alabama and the city of Russellville.

“We have a great team here at our Russellville plant that always has a positive attitude,” Klein said.

“The location of the manufacturing and distribution is key to a company’s success and we felt this area was a great fit for us. We are looking forward to building our future in Russellville.”

Klein said plans for the expansion were already in place and work would start on Monday.

He said at least 245 permanent, full-time jobs would be available with the company as soon as the expansion was complete, which is expected to be in May 2014.

In addition to company and local officials, Gov. Robert Bentley was also in attendance for the groundbreaking and said this announcement was great news for North Alabama.

“[Projects like this] are part of what we are trying to accomplish in this state,” Bentley said.

“This plant is going to create jobs that will help the lives of the people in this area.

“Everyone wants to be able to provide for their families, and the creation of good jobs has a multiplier effect because it helps everyone.”

Bentley also said he had no doubt the 245 new jobs would be filled by local people who will get the job done.

“The best workers in the United States live in the state of Alabama,” Bentley said.

“That’s the thing that helps me sell industry all over the world – our people. We have an environment in Alabama that is conducive to bringing jobs into this state.”

The announcement of the expansion of Innovative Hearth Product’s Russellville plant is exactly the type of news local officials said they have been waiting to hear.

Franklin County Development Authority executive director Mitch Mays said he couldn’t be more excited about this great opportunity for the area.

“I am so pleased that IHP chose to expand their plant here in Russellville,” Mays said.

“This is a testament to the workforce and to our commitment to working with new and existing industry to help them expand and grow for the betterment of their companies and the betterment of our citizens.”

Mays said IHP’s decision to expand locally would be a much-needed boost to the local economy.

Franklin County’s unemployment rate for the month of June stood at 7.8 percent, which is above the state average of 6.5 percent.

The county’s numbers reflected a total of 1,026 residents who filed for jobless claims in June, which was up from the 961 people who filed jobless claims in May.

“Having approximately 1,000 people who are without a job in Franklin County and adding 245 new jobs through this expansion could potentially drop the county’s jobless claims by 20 percent,” Mays said.

“In this economy, those are huge numbers, and having that many formerly unemployed people gain employment would boost the economy.

“Adding 245 new jobs represents a significant payroll impact of millions of new dollars flowing into the local economy, which translates to people being able to purchase homes, cars, groceries and other necessities right here locally.

“This is huge for our area.”

Mays also pointed out that the IHP expansion will not only help the local economy but will be a big boost to industrial development and recruitment in the future as well.

“IHP’s decision to take their 110,000 square feet plant and add an additional 210,000 square feet to house their manufacturing and distribution center for the eastern U.S. and their national customer center shows a great deal of faith in our local leadership and our workforce,” Mays said.

“This decision shows that we here in Franklin County are willing and eager to work with our existing industry to find viable options for expansions and growth and that we are just as eager to work with new industry to expand into our area, so there are obvious marketing benefits from this expansion that could open up more doors in the future.”

As much work as the Franklin County Development Authority does to recruit industry into the area, Mays said IHP’s expansion would not have been possible without many different people working together.

“I cannot thank Russellville Mayor David Grissom, Probate Judge Barry Moore, Sen. Roger Bedford and Gov. Robert Bentley enough for working hard and working together with us,” Mays said.

Grissom agreed that the company’s announcement was the result of what he has promoted from the beginning of his campaign: teamwork.

“When I first started my campaign for mayor of Russellville, there was a lot of talk about what we needed and one of the main things people always said was that we need more jobs in order for the town to prosper,” Grissom said.

“This groundbreaking today is the end result of many people working together as a team to make this a reality.

“There were many people who collaborated on this effort at the city, county and state levels, and I am excited about what this means for our citizens.

“This decision by IHP is an investment in not only our city and county but in our people as well. Our people make Franklin County a great place for industries like IHP because they are highly skilled, trainable, and ready to work.

“This is a great day for the city of Russellville and a great day for Franklin County.”

The state agreed to pay $1 million in incentives, which will be paid over a five-year period if the company maintains 245 employees over that time. Local officials agreed to pay $300,000 over a four-year period if the company maintains that same 245-employee level. The local money will be split between the city, county, the industrial development board and the Franklin County Community Development Commission.

IHP announced last week that they were closing operations at their Union City, Tenn., plant and moving all operations to Russellville.

“Russellville was either going to lose this plant or win this plant and we decided to win it,” Mays said.