One manufacturing plant in Clarksdale is seeing tremendous growth as it’s already doubled its work force in the last four months and is in the process of seeking more workers.
In March, MAP of Easton Inc. announced that it planned to make improvements to its plant on Highway 322 and expand its workforce by 24 to 40 new jobs. At the time, there were 51 employees working at the local facility.
As of Friday, the number of people working at MAP in Clarksdale now numbers 101 with hopes of adding at least another 40 employees over the next 18 months.
Plant manager Diane Pimpton said the folks in MAP’s corporate office in Easton, Pa., are “real happy and proud” of the work being done in Clarksdale.
“We’re trying to make an impression to say that Clarksdale is not bad. If we can get the jobs here, we have the people who can do the job,” she said. “You may have to go through a lot of them to get the people, but there’s some people out there looking that want to work.”
Most of the new hires are from around Clarksdale, Pimpton said. Most of the new employees are from the local WIN Job Center and undergo On the Job Training (OJT) at the plant.
Still, it’s a demanding job and it’s been “hit and miss” in finding those workers willing to stick with the job, Pimpton said. She said they have gone through about 60 hires to fill the 40 job openings they had.
“They are coming and they are going,” Pimpton said. “I think the heat is the main disadvantage that we have.”
Even though there are a number of large fans working inside the plant, there is no air conditioning. Combine that with the rising summertime temperatures outside and the fact that many of presses that MAP uses to manufacture its products run from 300 to 600 degrees, the temperature inside the plant is often sweltering.
“It’s tough right now. This is our worst season, the summertime,” said Pimpton, who has worked at MAP for the past 18 years and spent the past four as plant manager. “If you can make it through the summertime, you are going to be fine. This is when you are going to determine if you stay at MAP or not.”
And they are continuing to hire, said Pimpton, who noted Friday that she had hired 20 new employees this week.
The starting pay for a mold operator is $8.50 per hour. Workers are paid weekly and an employee can quickly earn a 50 cent per hour bonus by simply showing up to work and on time. Also offered are benefits that include health, life, vision and dental insurance, as well as a 401k plan.
The Clarksdale plant is currently running three shifts five days per week and they’ve also been working overtime on Saturdays for the past several months. Some workers have even picked up additional volunteer work on Sundays.
So, the work is there, Pimpton said.
“We got the opportunity to get some people employed here in Clarksdale,” she said.
MAP molds fiberglass insulation into “acoustical products”, or anything that controls sound and heat. Their primary customers are the automotive industry and you’ll see many MAP products used under hoods and in dashes. Their client list includes such big names as Chevrolet, General Motors, Toyota, Honda and CK Trucking.
She noted that a corporate employee recently drove a Malibu on a visit to the plant. And that vehicle has three parts “that were built here in this building.”
While strong sales numbers in the automotive industry are helping the plant, the Clarksdale facility is picking up work from some of the other MAP plants located across the country. Pimpton said there were currently 12 employees spending time at the facility in Grainger, Ind., for training on presses and manufacturing processes that will be moving here.
Pimpton said she enjoys working for MAP. She was first hired as an office manager and then given the plant manager’s position on a temporary basis. She quickly proved her worth and the interim tag was removed.
Pimpton said it’s been her policy to promote from within and she believes that’s played a large part in the Clarksdale plant’s success.
“They know the product, they know what they’re doing, they know what’s expected,” she said.
MAP of Easton came to Clarksdale in 2000. It leases its building from the city. In April, it was announced that $650,000 would be used to buy new equipment and make improvements to the building. The monies came from a Community Development Block Grant and CAP loan that MAP of Easton will pay back.
In addition, the city also applied for a federal grant of $250,000 and MAP was going to add the additional equipment valued at $500,000.
There will be some major upgrades at the facility, including dropping the ceiling, adding a training room, new stalls in the bathrooms and repairs to the kitchen and break room, patch work and filling in holes in the parking lot, as well as painting and other touch-up items to the outside of the facility. There will also be more lighting added in the plant’s manufacturing area.