By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – A $2 million expansion will not only keep 350 jobs at Philips Lighting’s Tupelo plant, but also will add 50 jobs over the next few months.
But company officials are hoping for more.
“We want to go beyond the 50, let’s be very clear,” said Iain Logan, a Philips senior vice president who is head of operations for Philips Lighting Americas. “This is a very big facility. We have a lot of space and we want to fill it.”
Philips Lighting is creating what it calls a major manufacturing hub at its 550,000-square-foot Tupelo plant, which opened in 1947 as Day-Brite.
Dutch-based Philips NV bought Genlytle – Day-Brite’s parent company – in 2008.
The expansion project includes incorporating LED technology made at the company’s San Jose, California, plant into the Tupelo facility’s production lineup, which includes “state-of-the-art intelligent fixtures that automatically respond to their environment, adding to the technology’s already high level of energy efficiency.”
Philips is transferring 25 product lines to Tupelo, officials said. Like the other lighting products made in Tupelo, they’ll be marketed and sold in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Keeping the 350 jobs was as important as adding new ones, said Community Development Foundation president and CEO David Rumbarger.
“We recruit a lot, but retention is our focus,” he said. “Sixty to seventy percent of job growth comes from companies like Philips that are already recruited here. They grow here, they develop here, they put their goods and services out from this area . … what I see here is a plant that is alive and regenerating.”
Plant employees joined in the ceremony, and officials like Rumbarger lauded their work.
“The energy you have, the vision that you have, the diligence on the line focused on high, high-quality products for the world is second to none,” Rumbarger said, drawing a round of applause.
Equipment for the project already is arriving, and initial production should begin in late October, officials said.
“Our expansion at this facility reinforces our commitment to this community, which helps us to turn innovations into world-class products that are good for the local economy and the environment,” Logan said. It is a great example of a public-private partnership that works.”
Logan said Philips has been looking at the project for more than a year.
“Every year, Philips analyzes its industrial footprint in North America, and every year we refresh our plans,” he said. “I can say we made a plan three years ago, and in the plan we had a vision for which plants would become large lighting facilities and Tupelo was decided it would become one of them. The people here are great, the willingness to work is fantastic and the leadership of the local team is second to none.”
Logan said hiring would be done in steps – five at a time – so that they can be properly trained as the expansion is done in phases.
Rumbarger said the Tupelo plant was one of the finalists for the project, and Philips approached CDF in April about its plans.
“That’s when the state and the local community stepped in and said, ‘We want you here,’ and put their money on the table,” he said.
The Mississippi Development Authority provided a $1 million grant for building modifications. While no local money was provided in grant form, Philips will get a 10-year tax exemption (non-school portion) on the equipment it is bringing in for the project.