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Sporting proposition: high unemployment area lands a 300-job factory.

ONE OF THE LARGEST MANUfacturing employers in Arkansas brought good news to an area of the state enduring a high unemployment rate.

Capital-Mercury Shirt Corp. of New York will convert a vacant 66,000-SF location in Des Arc (Prairie County) for use as a plant. Projections call for the facility to employ more than 300 when it is fully operational in a year.

A $750,000 loan through the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission is helping purchase equipment for the company.

Equipment will be set up this summer to train a cadre of workers in preparation for full-scale production in 1994.

The new Des Arc operation will produce sport shirts, while the company's other plants all turn out dress shirts. The new line is driven by a contract with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville.

Overall, Capital-Mercury employs about 2,500 workers in seven plants across north Arkansas.

The locations include Gassville (Baxter County), Marshall (Searcy County), Melbourne (Izard County), Mountain View (Stone County), Salem (Fulton County), Walnut Ridge (Lawrence County) and Yellville (Marion County).

Capital-Mercury replaces Acco Babcock, which closed down its Des Arc operation in March 1992.

That corporate decision to move the production of automobile control cables to Acco's Blytheville facility resulted in the loss of 300 jobs for Des Arc.

"It |Capital-Mercury~ was a blessing to Des Arc," says Merlin Hendricks, mayor of the 2,001-member community. "Our unemployment was as high as 19 percent at one time."

The city's preliminary unemployment figures averaged 20.4 percent during 1992, according to the Arkansas Employment Security Division.

An estimated average of 179 workers from the city's labor force of 877 were without jobs for the year.

The plant will come as good news to the rest of Prairie County and surrounding counties, too.

Official ESD statistics for Prairie County report that an average of 625 members of the county's labor force of 4,100 were without jobs.

Neighboring Woodruff County's 1992 unemployment average of 16.1 percent tops Prairie County's 15.2 percent. Other 1992 unemployment figures for adjacent counties include: Monroe County, 11.6 percent; White County, 9.2 percent; Arkansas County, 6.6 percent; and Lonoke County, 5.7 percent.

The Catfish Factor

One of the final recruiting tools used to land Capital-Mercury was an appreciation dinner held at Dondie's White River Princess.

Company officials, who had narrowed their choice of locations in four Southern states to Des Arc and an unnamed city in Tennessee, were favorably impressed with the April get-together.

The strong turnout of community leaders from Des Arc and surrounding cities augmented by a bountiful spread of catfish and more at the buffet restaurant won the day.

"It was one of those deals you wished came along more often, with a great cooperative effort to bring 300 new jobs to an area of high unemployment," says Del Boyette, AIDC director of industrial development.
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Title Annotation:Capital Mercury Shirt Corp.'s sport shirts manufacturing facility in Des Arc, Arkansas
Author:Waldon, George
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:May 17, 1993
Words:479
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