By NEMS Daily Journal
Tuesday became a banner day for jobs growth in Northeast Mississippi. Confirmation came of 107 new positions at MTD’s long-thriving operation in the Tupelo-Lee Industrial Park South in Verona and of a major distribution center employing hundreds for Hattiesburg-based Hudson Salvage in Blue Mountain’s former BenchCraft/Berkline furniture manufacturing building.
The MTD announcement, previously reported by the Daily Journal but not formally confirmed, is a $9.3 million private-public investment that will reactivate the empty, former Eljer Plumbingware building in the industrial park and bring MTD’s total Lee County employment to 1,257 from the current 1,150.
The former Eljer building, at 525,000 square feet, is among the largest industrial spaces in the county.
MTD Chairman Ted Moll, a Tupelo resident, told a celebratory announcement crowd that the new component operation will save the privately held company 60 cents on each piece of the component to be made in Verona.
The Cleveland, Ohio, company dates to 1932 and has operations worldwide. MTD’s products – walk-behind and tractor mowers, snow throwers, edgers, and tillers under the Cub Cadet, Bolens, McCulloch, Troy-Bilt, White Outdoor, Yard-Man, and Yard Machines brands – usually sells through home improvement and farm supply stores, big-box retailers, and hardware shops. The company was formed in 1932 by German immigrants as the Modern Tool and Die Company.
Hudson Salvage also is a 1930s-vintage firm, started in 1938 in Mississippi as Hudson Mercantile.
The Blue Mountain distribution center could serve in effect as the hub of a potential expansion of its salvage stores, operated under the Dirt Cheap and Treasure Hunt labels. More details are expected to be announced today.
The company’s operations employ about 1,100.
Both anouncements attracted state officials: Gov. Haley Barbour for the MTD program, and Mississippi Development Authority executive Gray Swoope for the Hudson news event.
Some of the strongest economic expansions historically have come from existing businesses and industries, a fact sustained by the two historically strong companies’ decisions about investing further in Mississippi.
The Hudson announcement was particularly encouraging economic news for Tippah County, which has been hard-hit by declines in furniture industry manufacturing.
BenchCraft, which began Blue Mountain operations in 1976, at its peak employed 2,200 at the site south of the town’s center.
Jobs development never can focus solely on one or a few giant projects. Industrialists and developers in Lee and Tippah counties worked the development and investment processes, and private-sector opportunity closed the deals.