EASTON -- An Ohio-based manufacturer of automotive parts announced yesterday that it will open a plant in Chestertown next year, its second one in Maryland.
Arkay Industries, a company based in Miamisburg, Ohio, said its plant would occupy an existing site in Kent County, employ 40 to 60 people and make plastic interior parts for American cars.
"We're a small company and we want to be part of the community," said Steve Jones, vice president of operations for Arkay. The Kent County site was chosen after a six-month search. The company already operates a plant in Belcamp that employs about 100 people, he said. The plants will be run separately, and the Kent site will have no effect on the Harford one, he said.
Arkay, a privately held company specializing in plastic parts for cars, reported revenues of $38 million in the fiscal year that ended July 31, 1994. It employs between 400 and 500 people, Mr. Jones said.
The announcement was made at the Chesapeake Country Economic Development Corp. annual conference at Easton's Tidewater Inn. The news drew applause from a crowd of about 100 Eastern Shore business and political figures who gathered at noon yesterday to eat chicken, green beans and apple pie and hear a speech by Maryland's secretary of business and economic development, James Brady.
"I certainly have been upstaged -- it was a wonderful upstaging!" said Mr. Brady in his opening remarks. Describing the Eastern Shore as one of his "special arrows in my economic quiver," he praised Chesapeake Country, a five-county regional marketing agency, for the team effort that brought Arkay aboard.
"The task of creating a very positive economic environment is a formidable task," Mr. Brady told the crowd. He said that anticipated federal budget cuts will have a disproportionate impact on Maryland because the state has been a beneficiary of federal money for a long time. "I don't know of any other answer to that problem other than private-sector economic development," he said, adding that such development has become increasingly competitive.
"It's no longer a gentlemen's agreement -- it's a war out there. It's a game played in the trenches," he said of the state's effort to attract new business.
Mr. Brady also cited the kind of cooperation that brought Arkay to Kent County, calling for "a seamless process" in attracting new business. State, county and municipal leaders need to work together with business, he said.
Arkay officials also sounded the theme of cooperation.
"This is the third factory we will be starting in three years," said Mr. Jones. "Coordination was a deciding factor in every one."
The company also has plants in Illinois, Alabama and Ohio.
The announcement was not news to at least one listener, Kent County's David Taylor. Mr. Taylor, the county economic development director who worked with Arkay and Chesapeake Country to put the deal together, was clearly pleased.
"We're making progress," he said.
The site chosen by the company is the old Schlagel building, an auto-parts company that left Chestertown two years ago, and leaves the town with only one industrial building in need of occupants: the Campbell plant that closed last month, leaving 240 workers without jobs.
"I'm bouncing -- I'm so happy," said Chestertown Mayor Margo Bailey, who said she had seen the company's help-wanted ads in the local newspaper a week ago. She said that Chestertown's recent losses -- Schlagel, a paper company and Campbell -- have been hard for the town.
Final negotiations are expected to be complete by the first of the year, said Mr. Jones, and Arkay expects to have the plant operating by July 1.
Three or four people will come in as managers, but the remainder of the company's employees will be local hires, he said.