Local industry recognized at annual event

Pine Bluff’s industrial sector was celebrated Tuesday at the Pine Bluff Country Club during the 32nd annual Rotary Club Industry Appreciation Day.

In a departure from the event’s customary format of a single guest speaker, the podium was shared by a total of four local executives who presented brief overviews of their respective operations in Pine Bluff.

Melinda Smith, owner of WooHoo!, a snack food startup that had its beginning in the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Business Incubator, discussed the rapid growth of her young company.

Smith said sales of her product have extended to much of the United States and Canada, with additional distribution deals in the works.

Dan Hoggard, human resources manager for the Tyson Foods Pine Bluff Complex, discussed the operations of Jefferson County’s largest industrial employer.

Hoggard said the facility has 1,485 employees with a weekly payroll of approximately $650,000.

The Strong Company Inc. President Tim DeJarnette discussed his company’s work in creating cement products from its facility at the Port of Pine Bluff.

DeJarnette said his company processes vermiculite and perlite to create various types of lightweight insulating concrete including Pool-Krete used as a base for vinyl-lined swimming pools and Fireguard insulation for above-ground fuel tanks.

Baylor Guy, general manager of L&R Distributors/SAJ Division, discussed SAJ’s potential for growth and for increased markets now that it is a division of New York-based L&R Distributors.

Lou Ann Nisbett, president and CEO of the Economic Development Alliance for Jefferson County, said that while her organization continues to seek new businesses, it is those that are already here that will reap the biggest dividends.

“Most new jobs are created by existing industries that choose to expand,” Nisbett said. “On that front I’m happy to report that a total of seven local industries are looking at expansion with a potential total capital investment of about $70 million. Today we’re saying ‘thanks for being here’ to all of our industries.”