Multi-million dollar company, Henderson Products, establishes sixth location in Fulton

Location, workforce, building were factors in attracting the snow and ice removal business

Henderson Products, Inc. President Marty Ward talks to a group gathered inside the former Missouri Packing building at 400 W. St. Eunice on Thursday for a press conference to announce the company's arrival to Fulton.

An international company that is a leader in manufacturing and distributing truck-mounted snow and ice removal equipment will bring its sixth facility to Fulton's industrial park, anticipating to be operational by the end of July.

Henderson Products, Inc., which is headquartered in the small, rural town of Manchester, Iowa, has signed a five-year lease with the option to buy at the former Missouri Packaging facility, located at 400 W. St. Eunice Road. The company's Fulton location is now its southern most, and at more than 41,000 square feet, will be its second largest site - only second to its 200,000 square-foot headquarters. Henderson President Marty Ward said the company should bring 30 jobs to the area within one to two years.

At its Fulton Installation and Distribution Center, Henderson will produce turnkey installations for its primary customer in the Show-Me State - the Missouri Department of Transportation. The department has ordered 40 of Henderson's equipment pieces, which were on display for a crowd gathered at a Thursday press conference. At one point in the company's 69-year history, Ward said Henderson decided it needed to create and install each part required on a snow and ice removal truck.

"We developed a strategy that we were going to develop the capabilities of being the only company in North America to build everything from the end of that snow and ice truck to the rear of that snow and ice truck," Ward said, pointing at a truck on display at the press conference. "With what you see here, we did that."

Ward said Henderson decided on moving to central Missouri, focusing on a nine-county region in January. That was later cut down to six counties, and Fulton eventually won over Henderson. Fulton's proximity to I-70 and accessibility to the state's two largest cities, St. Louis and Kansas City, gave the city an advantage. The existing industrial building was also something Henderson was searching for.

Bruce Hackmann, Fulton Area Development Corporation director, said companies, like Henderson, interested in establishing themselves in the area are wanting to move into an already existing facility 80 percent of the time. The former Missouri Packaging site was the only vacant industrial building in the city, and now it has an occupant. Ward said the building's size, high bay, high ceilings and the fact that there are no support poles - allowing for more work flow - were pluses.

The building will need updating, though, including overhead doors and cranes, Ward said.

"There's a number of modifications we're going to have to make," he said.

The company's success in Fulton is reliant on workforce, which was one of the biggest factors of Henderson settling in Fulton. Hackmann said there are more than 160,000 workers within a 40-mile radius of Fulton, and Henderson could attract workers in that range, including cities like Columbia, Jefferson City and Mexico.

As of March, Callaway County's unemployment rate was at 5.7 percent, above the national average of 5.1 percent and below the state average of 6.1 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Surrounding counties fall near Callaway County's rate. Audrain County is at 5.6 percent; Boone County is at 4.1 percent; Cole County is at 4.9 percent; Montgomery County is at 6.7 percent; and Osage County is at 4.6 percent.

Ward said he's already hired an installation and service manager. The site will start with 6-8 employees, who will train with skilled workers at one of Henderson's other locations before returning to Fulton. Then, experienced workers from other locations could come to Fulton, providing further training.

Henderson is in a recruitment process, and it will host a job fair on Thursday, June 4 from noon-6 p.m. at the Callaway Electric Cooperative, located at 1313 Cooperative Drive in Fulton. Ward said Henderson is looking for those with skills and experience in welding, hydraulics and electrical. Pay scale depends on skill set, he said, but hourly rate on the low end is $14 per hour and higher end is $18-$19 per hour.

"People told me that there's a lot of workforce here, in Fulton, that are paid $10-$12 (per hour) and we could come at a lower range," Ward said. "My philosophy is don't do that - pay people what they deserve and hire the best people and keep them working for you."

Although the company will bring an estimated 30 jobs within its infancy, there is hope for Henderson to expand employment opportunities. Ward said there is a potential for further growth based on the facility's 41,000-plus size. Henderson's Watertown, New York building is 31,000 square feet and employs 47 people. That site generates $20 million worth of revenue. Within its first year, Ward anticipates the Fulton facility to generate $5 million.

Henderson has been a division of Douglas Dynamics, Inc. - a leading manufacturer of vehicle attachments and equipment - since late 2014. Ward said Henderson has made its international mark in China and recently sold products to Russia. Once the political disputes between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin decrease, Ward said Henderson will likely be able to grow its market in the eastern country.

Locally, Ward said there are no plans for expansion, but 15 acres neighboring the Fulton facility might be necessary for Henderson to purchase if all goes well, expanding the site into a potential parts distribution center or a manufacturing site. That could result in more jobs, but for now, Henderson is focused on developing the workforce to establish the company's newest location. The vision, Ward said, is to sell products to cities of 5,000 people or more across Missouri.

That sentiment was one Hackmann also expressed.

"If Henderson likes what happens here from a labor standpoint, there could be a lot more that happens in this building down the road," Hackmann said. "And that's one of the things we're excited about. The up-to 30 jobs initially is great, but there's the hope of additional employment based on how things go over the next five years."