SPF America, a high-tech Fort Smith metal fabrication facility, is moving forward on a plan to add 15,000-square-feet of warehouse space.
The company began in 2012 as a merger between Mid-West Enamelers and CooperFab and creates custom metal pieces for the manufacturing, telecommunications, electric power industries and the U.S. Department of Defense.
Tony Toth, vice president of SPF America and one of the owners, said Tuesday that plans to expand the warehouse space at 5510 S. 66th St. have been in place for more than a year and he hopes for it to be complete by the end of the second quarter of this year.
“We needed a little elbow room, and hopefully, this will turn into more work for us,” Toth said.
A building permit with the city of Fort Smith was filed for the new construction Feb. 17 with a valuation of $650,000.
According to the company website, one of SPF America’s newest pieces of equipment is a 4,000-watt fiber laser that allows fast and precise cutting of steel, aluminum, copper, brass and titanium. Work includes powder coating metal pieces like “busbars” with functional epoxy coatings to provide insulating protection of more than 1,000 volts of direct current for every thousandth of an inch of thickness.
SPF America has approximately 60 employees with a smaller support facility in Van Buren. The core company was founded in 1977 by Basil C. “Joe” Brock, a World War II Army Air Corps pilot who moved to Clarksville in 1972 after working at Hughes Aircraft Co. in California. In 1997 CopperFab was formed to help market copper products to the telecommunications and industrial battery markets.
While the number of people employed by manufacturing in Fort Smith has seen a decrease by 5 percent in the past three years, from 18 percent to the overall state average of 13 percent, that does not necessarily correlate to less manufacturing output, according to the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s not where it was 20 years ago in numbers, but it doesn’t take as many people to do it anymore,” said Tim Allen, Chamber president and CEO. “Manufacturing is still alive and active here.”
Allen said that up to two-thirds of the project proposals he sees for Fort Smith from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission are manufacturing-related.