Is there anyone out there?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 19, 2003

McKenzie was participating in an industry summit of sorts Thursday for the 2004 class of Leadership Marengo. Representatives of Linden Lumber, New Era Cap Company and Foster Farms gave the LM class members snapshots of their successful companies and described the impact their private-owned companies have had on the the county.

Alvin Williams, plant manager for New Era Cap Company. Williams, a Demopolis native, worked previously for Vanity Fair, the apparel company that was housed in the building New Era now uses.

Vanity Fair was hurt by competition from companies that had moved their operations out of the country, he said. "Demopolis was the fourth plant that Vanity Fair had left before it closed in 1997.

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New Era Cap Company from Buffalo, N.Y. was looking for a place to expand, Williams said. "It’s a fourth generation privately-owned company."

New Era currently employs 385 in Demopolis. "We employ people from a 40-mile radius." The company has a new three-year contract extension with Major League Baseball. "If you watch a Major League Baseball game &045; if they have a cap on, we made it."

The competition from Nike and Reebok gets tougher every year. One thing going for New Era was that since baseball is America’s pastime, they wanted to purchase product made in America. If you watch baseball today, the players include many more nationalities and the made in America stamp made not be as important in the future.

Foster Farms is "a large part of this community," said Travis Burnham, plant manager. "We pump a lot of dollars into it."

The plant will produce 35 million pounds of corn dogs in 2003 (approximately 200 million corn dogs), an increase from 33 million in 2002 and 31 million in 2001. The company is an affiliate of a Livingston, California poultry processing company.

The company employs 295 employees. Production is running six days a week. "We have new equipment to put in, and we can’t find time to take down and put it in."

They, of course, deal with competition. "If you’re not finding a better way, if you can’t improve your quality, if you can’t lower the costs," he said, you’re not a successful business.

The plant has to deal with the Environmental Protection Association, the Occupational Safety&Health Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (A USDA inspector is in the plant at all times.)

Linden Lumber Company began in 1965 and now employs 780 people. It was founded by Don Overmyer. Hugh Overmyer is now the chief operating officer.

The mill is located on the same site, now considerably larger, McKenzie said.

The company has three principle lines of business:

(1) hardwood lumber. "Red oak and white oak are the two species," he said. "We sell to folks that are doing what we call in our industry, remanufacturing." Customers might be familar with bathroom cabinets, doors, window trim, molding, etc.;

(2) flooring. Linden Lumber got into the flooring business in 1988. They manufacture unfinished hardwood flooring in two-and-a quarter and three-and-a quarter width sizes. "We are one of the top six or eight floor producers in the United States," McKenzie said.;

(3) factory finished hardwood flooring. The company entered this business in 1999. This product has become popular in the last decade in what McKenzie called "our instant society."

The sanding, the staining and the sealing of the flooring is done in a factory controlled environment.

The product from Linden Lumber Company is marketed through their own sales department, through distributors and helped pioneer the concept of "direct to retail," he said.

Linden Lumber also sells a special product through Home Depot stores.