Henderson Development Association showcases local manufacturers

Made in China. Made in Taiwan. Those are some of the labels many see on clothing and packaging and other items they buy.

A group of business leaders and elected officials want people to know there’s a growing number of “Made in Henderson” on that list and many Southern Nevada residents don’t even realize it.

That’s the message from the Henderson Development Association, which held a panel session Oct. 20 at Nevada State College featuring six manufacturers, some relative newcomers and others with a longer track record in the city that chose to make Henderson their home:

■ There’s Flowers Baking Co., which bakes bread, hot dog buns and hamburger buns that are shipped to stores in Southern Nevada and Southern California

■ Ahern Rentals, a worldwide distributor of construction equipment that recently opened a manufacturing plant in Henderson, where it makes forklift equipment

■ Battle Arms Development, which designs guns and plans to start manufacturing them in Henderson rather than contract the work out of state

■ Berry Plastics, which makes plastic containers and packaging for use in Southern Nevada

■ K2 Energy, which makes advanced lithium-ion batteries for military and consumer uses

■ Lovelady Brewing, whose beers are brewed for consumption in Las Vegas.

That’s a new generation for Henderson, a city founded on heavy manufacturing plants for military uses during World War II.

“It showcases manufacturing in Henderson, which is a diverse sector with big businesses for our economy and with very good jobs,” said Henderson Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Scott Muelrath. “People don’t understand how much is manufactured in Henderson. It’s cool stuff. Even Ethel M Chocolates is a Henderson company, and many people don’t know that. It’s just getting the word out there.”

Getting the word out means attracting more companies to Henderson.

Henderson-based operations are expanding, and others are relocating to the city, with more than 2.5 million square feet in speculative industrial development underway.

■ Arroweye, a manufacturer of credit cards and gift cards, expanded with a $12 million investment and added 34 jobs.

■ TH Foods, a snack foods manufacturer, is adding two new manufacturing lines as part of a $15 million investment.

“There’s a hub of activity in Henderson,” Muelrath said. “We want to support it. Companies recognize the advantages and how we have a good proximity to California, a good airport and large Fed Ex distribution hub in Henderson. All of the tools are here.”

And then there is Ahern Rentals, whose CEO, Don Ahern, in 2016 opened his Xtreme Manufacturing plant in Henderson that employs 150 people, relocating it from Las Vegas.

The Ahern family has turned a 1953 truck stop, gas station and construction equipment rental company and manufacturing business on the Las Vegas Strip, where the Stratosphere is now, into a worldwide company.

Ahern said that the plant makes the largest forklift in the world, at 115,000 pounds, and that the machine picks up 70,000 pounds. Ahern builds 6,400 pieces of rental construction equipment a year with more than 1 million square feet of manufacturing operations spread out in England, California, Kansas and New Zealand. The company also has distribution operations across the U.S. and in Chile, Australia, Japan and Germany. It has 700 employees worldwide, including 17 in Shanghai.

Ahern said he got rebuffed while trying to build his manufacturing plant in Las Vegas because of opposition from residents, so he turned to Henderson for the opportunity to grow his business. He didn’t want to leave the state.

“Nevada gives a lot of advantages,” Ahern said. “California is a nightmare that you can only imagine, and in Kansas City, (Kansas), we have to deal with the weather being not so good. We have the ability to recruit people here. We hire people with low skills to high skills, and we always find people who float into Las Vegas with a degree.”

Ahern’s lone criticism was of the state’s commerce tax law, which took effect in 2015 and imposes a gross receipts tax on businesses with $4 million or more in annual revenue.

“It has nothing to do with the city of Henderson, but that will be the biggest killer of business in the state and could have a negative effect on Henderson,” Ahern said. “That’s the biggest concern about being in Nevada right now.”

Berry Plastics will soon celebrate its 30th year in Henderson with a second plant. The $7-billion-a-year company has 135 facilities worldwide, said Greg Dempsey, the plant’s general manager. It makes plastics used for food packaging and medical supplies used locally for products because it’s too expensive to ship such materials, he said.

“We’re not sexy like everybody else, but if you go home and look in your garage, refrigerator, cabinet or medicine cabinet you will probably find our products,” Dempsey said. “If you go to McDonald’s and get a little pail for the kids, it was made here in Henderson.”

Flowers Baking Co. has made bread in Henderson for three years, but it doesn’t stay in its plant for long. A division of Georgia-based Flowers Food, it has 157 employees and is part of three plants in a region that include Phoenix and Modesto, Calif., said Sara Coburn, director of human relations. With 49 bakeries, the company covers 80 percent of the country.

“Henderson is a good place to us, especially driving distance to California,” Coburn said. “We have to deliver everything by truck due to our freshness. We’re a 10-day company and our products after 10 days are done. You don’t want to eat them because we don’t use preservatives. Our bread is on the truck for no more than three hours.”

Las Vegas has been great for a workforce because since it’s a 24-hour-, seven-day-a-week town, employees are used to a plant open seven days, Coburn said. That helps recruit and retain employees, she said.

For some, it would appear Henderson is a natural for Lovelady Brewing on Water Street and whose co-founder Bob Lovelady and his family have long-standing ties to downtown Henderson. Before turning to Henderson for its project, they looked at California.

“Considering some hassles we went through in California when we first started trying, dealing with the city of Henderson was a beautiful thing,” Lovelady said. “We tried a couple of different times in California, but you get before a board of supervisors with your plans for approval and half of the board is anti-alcohol and reject you out of hand when they’re trying to redevelop a downtown neighborhood. The response we got from the city of Henderson was: ‘Oh, boy, yes and please.’ It was night and day.”

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