Tifton manufacturer thrives during tough times - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Tifton manufacturer thrives during tough times

By Cade Fowler - bio | email

TIFTON, GA (WALB) – The sound of machinery is welcomed noise in a community that's been hit hard by layoffs.

"This plant is a good news story. It's an expansion in South Georgia. These are good jobs that should be around for a long time," says Rep. Jim Marshall, D-Georgia.

They 8th district Congressman got a first hand look at the newly expanded 320,000 square foot Heatcraft plant in Tifton.

The refrigeration manufacturer invested $22 million dollars in 2007 towards expansion. It was a move that shutdown an Illinois plant and moved the operation to a sprawling warehouse that sits in what used to be a cotton field.

While it meant layoffs in the "Land of Lincoln", Marshall says the fact Heatcraft stayed in America says a lot about the company.

"This plant came from Illinois. But it could have gone to Mexico. And it's because Georgia workers could demonstrate that they're going to be more productive than workers in Mexico that the plant came here."

That move added 200 jobs shortly after five plants shutdown operations in Tift County. It was pink slips turned paychecks for many laid off workers.

"We've seen a lot of people as you well know of factories that have closed here that we've been able to bring on to our facility. It's been a great impact on the town," says Heatcraft Human Resource Manager Mike McDaniel.

Since expanding, the Tifton-Tift County Chamber of Commerce says Heatcraft has had a $2.1 million impact on the local economy. And while Tift County's unemployment rate is above 12%,other counties in Marshall's district such as Ben Hill and Irwin have some of the highest unemployment rates in Georgia.

Despite the numbers, Marshall remains optimistic about job growth. But he says we must learn from our mistakes.

"We got too carried away with debt. The Federal Government is to carried away with debt. We need to pull in our belts a little bit. We need to get the economy rolling again and people should see jobs. People should be more secure.

For now jobs are secure at Heatcraft. It's a standard that will hopefully soon to be the trend throughout the region.

Heatcraft officials say they are seeing signs of continued growth in the economy. If the trend keeps up that could equal more job openings at the facility in the future.

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