Representatives of Kiswire Ltd., which recently took over the ArcelorMittal facility in Jefferson Industrial Park, said Wednesday that there will be no layoffs of the existing workforce because of the ownership change.
Kiswire Inc. President David Minnick said that there will also be no additional hiring in the short term because the company is preparing to begin a complete retrofitting of the facility, which is expected to take 18 months and cost between $9.5 million and $11 million.
“We are going to replace the old machinery and look at potentially changing the existing layout in order to maximize efficiency,” Minnick said. “The new machinery will also be more economical to operate. We will be bringing in a new plating line (part of the manufacturing process) and it should take between four and five months to get it installed.”
Minnick said that Kiswire has been involved in the Pine Bluff facility since Trefilarbed first came to Pine Bluff in the late 1980s.
“We have been in Pine Bluff for a long time,” Minnick said. “We had a minority partnership with ArcelorMittal in which they had a 65 percent stake in the facility and we had a 35 percent stake. One of the reasons that the Pine Bluff facility was attractive to us is its production of tire reinforcement wire products.”
Minnick said that in the long term Kiswire is exploring the potential of adding a sister manufacturing facility to the Pine Bluff operation that would produce bead wire.
“Our company chairman likes to see cord wire and bead wire produced side by side,” Minnick said.
Minnick said that this scenario is a real possibility thanks to the shifting of tire production from overseas back to the United States.
“We have two wire plants in South Carolina and we also have tire plants including Continental, Michelin and Bridgestone,” Minnick said. “Due to the shifting exchange rates between the Chinese currency and the dollar, it is now cheaper to manufacture tires domestically. This, of course, is a great boost for our business.”
Minnick said that both cord wire and bead wire are used in the assembly of tires.
Factory manager Charley Chen said that the majority of the new equipment will come from the company’s headquarter country of South Korea.
“This is a big investment for us,” Chen said. “We are excited about it.”
Minnick said that Kiswire was founded in South Korea in 1945 as Elephant Brand Wire Rope.
“This is why the elephant is still an integral part of the company logo,” Minnick said.