In tough times, local company looks to expandWritten by Julia Merchant
In yet another piece of positive economic news, Waynesville-based Haywood Vocational Opportunities announced a proposed expansion that would create at least 50 new jobs.
HVO, which makes disposable medical supplies, plans to pay $400,000 for 10 acres at the Beaverdam Industrial Park in the eastern end of Haywood County and spend more than $1 million to construct a 40,000-square-foot building on the site.
The county recently spent $700,000 to grade the industrial site, and therefore is selling it at a loss. That’s just the nature of the business, said county Economic Development Director Mark Clasby. Grading industrial sites to ready them for building is one way to lure companies.
“That’s part of the economic development incentive, to work with existing businesses to retain them, or in this case, expand. That’s even better — it’s an investment in jobs for the future,” Clasby said.
HVO’s proposal has been OK’d by the Economic Development Commission, and is now awaiting final approval by county commissioners.
The company currently employs 315 full-time workers at its factory in the Hazelwood community. It also runs an employment and training program, which enrolls 120 people. The company operates under a unique business model — about 25 percent of its employee base at any given time has a disabling physical or mental condition that is a barrier to employment.
HVO has maintained a rapid rate of growth at a time when many businesses are struggling with the economic recession. The company moved into its current headquarters in 2005 and is already looking to expand. It added 72 new jobs in the last 18 months, mostly hourly positions, according to HVO President George Marshall. HVO is forecasting continued growth over the next 24 to 36 months.
“We have emerging business that, right now, I can’t comment on,” said Marshall.
The company plans to add 50 new jobs over that time period that will range from machine operators to assemblers. That’s apart from the jobs directly linked to construction of the building.
HVO makes a niche product that isn’t easily outsourced, which has helped it to weather the economic downturn.
“Basically, we’re in a real specialty market as it relates to healthcare,” Marshall said. “We produce custom surgical products for the healthcare industry, which, generally speaking, has not been able to be taken offshore. As commodity products have moved, this was one element that really could not practically, nor economically, be moved.”
HVO has developed a huge market for its products.
“Our customers are throughout the U.S. and international,” Marshall said. About 30 percent of HVO’s business is outside the country, including clients in Sydney.
Marshall said that HVO will aim to complete its new facility at the industrial park by the end of 2009.