Archive for Thursday, March 2, 2000

DeSoto is perfect for Sealright headquarters

March 2, 2000

When it comes to attracting big business, DeSoto has a lot going for it. The ideal location, a relatively untapped labor pool and room for expansion was more than enough reason for one international company to make DeSoto its North American headquarters.

The decision by Huhtamaki Van Leer to move its headquarters to DeSoto's Sealright plant was not a difficult one, according to company CEO Mark Staton. In fact, Staton said, DeSoto is such a desirable place to do business, the plant will likely be the site of future expansion.

Huhtamaki Val Leer is an international packaging company with its world headquarters in Finland. The company manufactures products such as packaging for dessert foods, Chinet paper plates and plastic cups forks, spoons and knives.

The establishment of the headquarters will produce only a handful of new jobs, Staton explained, but future acquisitions and expansions by the company could bring a more significant number of jobs to the area.

"I see opportunities for further growth at this site. We chose DeSoto over several other locations," Staton said in a recent interview. "I know the road is not run yet. We still have a long way to go."

One of the things DeSoto has in its favor is location, Staton said. The central location makes it a prime place for national and international companies, such as Huhtamaki Van Leer, to do business, he explained.

"We have five plants to the east and three to the west. If we were on the West Coast, we would be close to three (of the plants), but pretty removed from the others," he said. "Here, we're right in the middle."

DeSoto's access to transportation facilities and its potential labor pool also played a role in the decision, he said.

"We're served by a rail spur and have a four-lane highway at the front door," he said. "We also have good labor capability for unskilled, semi-skilled and professional people."

Carl Walker, the company's vice president of human resources, said the company is growing and the DeSoto site lends itself to future expansion.

"We have quite a bit of land around us. We didn't want to be land-locked," he said. "And with headquarters right in the middle of the United States, it gives us great advantage to expand."

Although the establishment of the local headquarters will produce only about a dozen executive-level jobs, Walker explained, the company intends to hire about 65 new employees.

"We still need about that many people to be fully staffed based on our customer demands today," he said. "Those jobs vary from entry level to very skilled printers and press operators."

The DeSoto Sealright plant employs 260 people.

DeSoto Chamber of Commerce President Pat Atchison agrees that DeSoto is on the verge of growth. She said that may not be what all of the small town's residents want to hear, but it is something they need to prepare for.

"There's a certain percentage of the population that would like to see things stay as they are," she said. "But because of our access to K-10, growth is going to come whether we want it or not. It's our responsibility to see that it comes in a positive way."

An immediate need the city will have is for more affordable housing for middle- and low-income families, she said. She pointed out that it would also be important for city officials to keep a close eye on what types of businesses come into the city.

"We will need to see what impact each business coming to town will be on the town as a whole," she said.

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