IHP holds grand opening
Fifteen months after officials gathered to break ground on the new 220,000 square foot expansion at International Heath Products’ (IHP) facility in Russellville, officials gathered once again this past week to hold a grand opening for the expansion that houses IHP’s manufacturing and distribution for the eastern half of North America, as well as the national customer center.
City, state and company officials talked about the profound impact the expansion will have on the county for years to come and how vital IHP is to the community.
“I am proud of the success we’ve had here in Northwest Alabama and there is more to come,” Sen. Roger Bedford said.
“This is cutting-edge technology that is going on here in Russellville and Franklin County and that is something to be proud of.
“The workers at IHP are quality, dedicated people who are representative of the overall workforce in Franklin County. It is an honor to have a company like IHP in our community and providing jobs and opportunities for our citizens.
“Every job that is offered brings with it dignity, self-worth and pride for the people who fill those positions, and that makes every new job that’s created important.”
Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow said the IHP expansion was a much-needed boost to the local economy.
“When we attract industry, it helps us in all areas,” Morrow said. “That’s what economic development is all about, and I am proud of what has been accomplished here.”
IHP, which produces indoor and outdoor fireplaces, fireplace inserts, free-standing stoves, gas log sets and fireplace accessories, announced in August 2013 that they would be expanding their current operation in Russellville and adding close to 250 new jobs.
The company made the decision to close down operations at their Union City, Tenn., plant and move all operations to Russellville.
Bedford said the teamwork at the city and state level was key to making the IHP expansion possible and the teamwork from company officials was vital to making this expansion an asset for the area.
“There were many people, on both sides of the political spectrum, who came together to make all of this possible today,” Bedford said.
“Gov. Robert Bentley was very involved in this process as was Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, Russellville Mayor David Grissom, Probate Judge Barry Moore, [FCDA executive director] Mitch Mays, and others.
“When it comes to creating jobs and improving the quality of life for the people of Northwest Alabama, this is not a partisan issue – this is a red, white and blue issue. You have to put party lines aside and work together to make these things happen, and I am glad that I could be a small part of this team.”
Mark Klein, CEO of IHP, said he appreciated the work of all those involved to help the company grow and prosper in Russellville.
“It seems like just yesterday that we were standing here at the groundbreaking ceremony,” Klein said.
“It’s pretty incredible what has transpired since that time, and now we are standing here with an incredible list of accomplishments.”
Klein said some of those accomplishments included the addition of the 220,000 square foot expansion; the addition of new offices; the purchase of new equipment for the facility; the hiring of 200 new employees; the hiring of 60 more new employees in the near future; and the 3,400 hours that have been invested in employee training.
“We have made a substantial investment in this facility,” he said, “and we look forward to a solid relationship with the Russellville community for years to come.”
One of the more special parts of last Tuesday’s grand opening ceremony was the dedication of the facility to a person who played an important role of making the facility a reality – Charlie Cross.
“Charlie was instrumental in getting this facility re-established in 2004,” Klein said.
“After his retirement in 2011, Charlie continued to work for us and played a key role in this expansion project.
“Unfortunately, we lost Charlie last December and he didn’t get to see the completed project, but we are dedicating this expansion today to him and there will be a plaque in the front of the building that will let visitors know this is ‘Charlie’s Campus’.”
Mike Madden, who owns the property, echoed Klein’s sentiments about Cross and said he was proud of all that had been accomplished.
“Fourteen months ago, it was hard to believe we’d be where we are today,” Madden said. “It’s amazing what we can do when we work together.”
Russellville Mayor David Grissom also thanked those who worked together on this project to help make the expansion possible.
“This decision by IHP to expand here in Russellville was an investment in not only our city and county but in our people as well,” Grissom said.
“When you have 260 new jobs and a 220,000 square foot expansion, it just doesn’t get much better than that for our community.”
Franklin County Development Authority executive director Mitch Mays said the expansion at IHP was a great example of how an industry can positively affect an area and how an industry can be positively affected by an area as well.
“I just want to thank Mark for seeing the potential in our community.” Mays said. “His faith in this area speaks volumes about how we can all work together here.
“Ultimately, it all comes down to having leadership in place that can see beyond the immediate and look to the future of our community, and that’s what happened here.”