A contract manufacturer with plants in the Carolinas will consolidate its operations in Smithfield, adding 30 jobs over the next two years and spending $1.2 million to redevelop a South Bright Leaf Boulevard property.
ARI, or Atlantic Resources Inc., is a contract manufacturer specializing in electrical-system construction, control panel design and construction, automation design, conveyor systems, mechanical systems, metal fabrication and welding. The company’s other branch, ARI Designs, which specializes in graphic design, will also make its home in Smithfield.
ARI has been leasing space in Four Oaks, Statesville and Florence, S.C. The company owns the Smithfield building.
“We’re trying to get everyone back here,” said Brian Barefoot, the company’s vice president.
The property at 1515 S. Bright Leaf Blvd. is the former Jerold Manufacturing plant, which Barefoot said produced fur and fur coats. The 85,000-square-foot building had stood largely unused for decades before ARI bought it in August, Barefoot said.
The property has two large buildings, one with frontage on Bright Leaf and the other behind that. ARI is razing the front building, with plans for a new building in its place. The company will refurbish the second building, which is warehouse space.
ARI has several well-known clients, including Caterpillar, Honda and Volvo, Barefoot said. The Smithfield headquarters will position the company to better serve its clients while cutting the costs that came with plants in multiple locations, he said.
“We won’t have to have as many vehicles out on the road,” Barefoot said. “We won’t be so spread out and dealing with fire codes, phone services, alarm systems and other things you need at every location if we’re all under one roof.”
But a consolidation and cost savings doesn’t mean ARI is downsizing. Far from it.
With a $175,000 building-reuse grant from the N.C. Department of Commerce, ARI will create about 30 jobs in Smithfield over the next two years, Barefoot said. That’s on top of the 10-12 employees the company will bring to Smithfield from its other plants, he said.
Barefoot said the Smithfield plant could one day have about 45 jobs in all. Pay, he said, will average about $42,000 per year. Some jobs will pay less – around $35,000 – while others will pay $70,000 to $80,000 a year.
Hiring should begin around when new construction and renovations wrap up, most likely this summer, Barefoot said.
While the company looked elsewhere for a new, permanent home, the Bright Leaf property is ideal for ARI’s needs, and it happened to qualify for a state reuse grant, Barefoot said.
“It’s right here on (U.S.) 301, and the potential for this highway is phenomenal,” he said. “Good traffic comes through, here and we’re just a few minutes from (interstates) 95 and 70. This property has so much potential for us.”
To qualify for the state reuse grant, a property must have been idle for a certain amount of time, Barefoot said. While part of the former Jerold plant had played host to a flea market for a number of years, the state did not consider that a full-time use, and “there was no economic value coming out of this building,” he said.
All of the grant dollars will go directly into rebuilding, Barefoot said, with the company investing another $1 million or more.
“It really needs it,” he said, adding that the rehab project includes landscaping.
And ARI won’t stop there. It’s five-year plan includes a storefront for the graphic-design department and a building addition to the rear of the property. The company also is considering opening a satellite plant near Charlotte in 2017 to better serve clients in the western part of the state, Barefoot said.
Barefoot and his wife, Tonya, the company’s president, launched ARI in 2010, he said. To learn more about ARI, go to atlanticresourcesinc.com.
Abbie Bennett: 919-553-7234, Ext. 101; @AbbieRBennett