Manufacturing jobs biggest employer in county

Nineteen percent of Jefferson County’s workforce was employed in the manufacturing sector at the end of 2013, according to Arkansas Department of Workforce Services data.

Manufacturing businesses provided the highest sector earnings total within the county with $237 million for 2013.

Of the 75 counties in Arkansas, Jefferson County had the seventh largest manufacturing sector employee base in the state, with 5,292 people employed in manufacturing jobs, according to the data compiled by the Economic Development Alliance for Jefferson County.

Ann Williams, executive director of the Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce, said that the area’s success as a manufacturing base is not as well-known as it should be.

“I hate that this is such a well-kept secret,” Williams said. “When you don’t even know the good things that are here, that is really bad. But the manufacturers that are here are good news for the chamber as well as Pine Bluff and Jefferson County.”

In Jefferson County, the second-largest employer was the education and health services sector, which represented 18.3 percent of the workforce, employing 5,092 people and providing income of $180 million.

The third-largest employer was the trade, transportation and utilities sector, which represented 17.5 percent of the workforce, employed 4,855 people and provided income of $163 million.

State government comprised 11.9 percent of the workforce, employed 3,303 people and provided earnings of $123 million.

Local government comprised 10.7 percent of the workforce, employed 2,964 people and provided earnings of $98 million.

Other industry sectors included material resources and mining, construction, financial activities, information, professional and business services and leisure and hospitality.

For the 12-month period ending December 2013, Jefferson County’s workforce reported total employee earnings of $999 million.

Only seven counties had higher total earnings, with Pulaski County coming in at $10.2 billion, Benton County with $5.2 billion, Washington County with $3.7 billion, Sebastian County with $2.4 billion, Faulkner and Craighead counties at $1.5 billion each and Garland County at $1.1 billion.

The only counties with larger manufacturing sectors than Jefferson County were Pulaski, Washington, Sebastian, Benton, Mississippi and Craighead counties.

The highest manufacturing sector employee total was 12,411 in Pulaski County with $670 million in earnings, followed closely by Washington County with 12,224 manufacturing jobs and $465 million in earnings for the year.

Sebastian County was third with 11,606 manufacturing jobs and $540 million in earnings for the year, with Benton County coming in fourth with 10,253 manufacturing jobs and $414 million in earnings.

Mississippi County had 6,184 manufacturing jobs and $378 million in earnings for fifth place and Craighead County just edged out Jefferson County for sixth place with 5,762 manufacturing jobs and $240 million in earnings.

Chris Hart, vice president of human resources and quality assurance with Central Moloney Inc. in Pine Bluff, said that Jefferson County’s position near the center of the state has proven beneficial for that company.

“Jefferson County is ideally located as it is both central to the state and central to the nation,” Hart said. “The infrastructure allows us to both receive goods and send our products out on the roads, through the air and through our port on the Arkansas River. At our roots, this community is blue collar, and whether on the farms or in the factories, this community has always been accustomed to working to earn everything we get.”