Whirlpool, which continues its move into the cavernous $200 million plant on Benton Pike, has been forced to slow the transition’s pace just a little because of heavy customer demand for its award-winning, premium cooking products. Company leaders had hoped to have the relocation complete by mid-year, but original plans are now being delayed slightly because ... frankly ... the company needs to focus on appliance production and not moving assembly lines.
That’s a nice problem to have.
Plant leader Dicky Walters has already announced a second shift assembly line — which will create 100 new jobs — will be added to the new plant’s production floor sometime in April. This will help to better meet product demand, thereby allowing the factory to return attention to the massive move-in from the existing 90-acre site on King Edward Avenue.
As announced on the front page of our newspaper in last Friday’s edition, Renfro is also working to meet increased product demand.
Again, what a nice problem!
In order to keep up with customer orders, Renfro is adding product lines, renovating its Cleveland plant and leasing additional distribution footage in a facility adjacent to the Michigan Avenue plant. The renovation, necessitated by the addition of a product line, represents an investment of $17.5 million in equipment and construction costs.
Here’s the bigger news. Over the next five years, Renfro’s upgrade and expansion will net 168 new jobs.
For those who remember Charleston Hosiery, but who might be a little fuzzy on the Renfro name, the company is headquartered in Mount Airy, N.C. Renfro bought Charleston Hosiery in November 2006 as a continuation of a trend toward consolidation in the hosiery industry. When Charleston Hosiery operated here, it too was no stranger to consolidation, having merged two local plants into one in 2005. Earlier in the same year, Charleston Hosiery acquired Gateway Hosiery Mills Inc. of Chattanooga.
Today, Renfro is a global leader in designing, manufacturing, marketing and selling legwear products. It is the licensee for familiar brands like Fruit of the Loom, Dr. Scholl’s, Ralph Lauren/Lauren Polo, Copper Sole, Wrangler, Sperry, Russell, Jerzees, Spalding, Bike and Carhartt. Renfro also owns a pair of leading fashion brands, K. Bell and Hot Sox.
Renfro Corp. was founded in 1921 with 25 employees and has grown to employ 4,500 worldwide. Charleston Hosiery was founded in 1939 and grew to employ 1,000 people before it was sold.
Although Renfro maintains a strong U.S. presence, its manufacturing and distribution facilities are also found in India, China, Pakistan, Canada and Mexico. Renfro operates sales offices in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Hong Kong, The Netherlands, India and China.
Decisions to maintain, and to expand, existing manufacturing operations in our Cleveland and Bradley County community, within the state of Tennessee and on U.S. soil, point to an encouraging trend, one whose message is that the resurgence of American manufacturing is real.
The Whirlpool decision to close an aging, century-old plant in Cleveland, and to replace it with a new, state-of-the-art facility — in Cleveland — is testament to this fact.
We are proud that our hometown is playing a significant role in the telling of that story.
Others are just as elated.
We will have more to say about their reasons to smile in our next edition.