Material Handling Systems, a Kentucky-based company that has seen its manufacture of conveyor and sorting equipment grow along with the explosion in e-commerce, is bringing that growth to Bowling Green.
MHS, which is based in the Louisville suburb of Mount Washington, said Thursday it will invest about $7.6 million to locate a 200-employee operation in a 181,000-square-foot plant at 120 Williamette Lane near the General Motors Corvette Assembly Plant.
That building, formerly home to the Android Industries automotive parts plant that has since moved to the Kentucky Transpark, should be operating within a few weeks.
“We will sign the lease next week and start recruiting people right away,” said Neil McElroy, chief operations officer at MHS. “We’ll have some type of manufacturing presence by the first part of March.”
The new operation will provide steel structures for conveyor and sorting systems. Additionally, MHS manufactures extendable conveyor machines and other products for such large e-commerce customers as UPS, FedEx Ground and Amazon.
Its association with such companies has fueled growth that has taken MHS from its beginning in a one-room office in 1999 to its status today as one of the top 10 privately held companies in the Louisville area as ranked by Louisville Business First magazine.
MHS now has more than 2,000 employees in locations throughout the U.S. and in Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy, Poland and China.
“We’re very fortunate to be a supplier to the e-commerce industry,” said Scott McReynolds, the company’s CEO. “We’ve seen growth over the last six years of about 13% to 14% per year.
“COVID (the coronavirus pandemic) has escalated that because everybody is ordering online.”
That growth led MHS to look for a new location, and McElroy said Bowling Green will fit its needs.
“We were looking for a specific building size and specific geography,” McElroy said. “We looked in Tennessee and Indiana before deciding on Bowling Green. We wanted to stay between Louisville and Nashville.”
McElroy said MHS will be looking to fill a variety of roles at the plant, including welders, fabricators, forklift drivers and painters. Those jobs will pay $18 to $27 an hour, he said, and employment could grow beyond the initial estimate of 200 jobs.
“In the near term we’ll have one shift, but we’ll probably expand to a second shift,” McElroy said. “The way we operate, 200 employees is probably a conservative guess. I think we could go well beyond that.”
That’s great news for Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, who joined the Zoom video conference Thursday announcing the MHS plant.
“MHS will be a wonderful addition to the Bowling Green community,” Beshear said. “It’s one more sign that Kentucky is going to be poised to sprint out of this pandemic.”
McReynolds credited the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority for playing a role in the decision to locate in Bowling Green.
KEDFA on Thursday approved a 10-year incentive agreement with MHS under the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based agreement can provide up to $2.5 million in tax incentives based on the company’s investment of $7.6 million and its employment targets.
By meeting its annual targets over the agreement term, the company can be eligible to keep a portion of the new tax revenue it generates. The company may claim eligible incentives against its income tax liability and/or wage assessments.
The MHS news was the second economic development announcement for Bowling Green in less than a month.
On Jan. 7, Colorado-based Ball Corp. announced plans to build a 450,000-square-foot plant on a 40-acre site in the Kentucky Transpark, where it will eventually employ about 200 people making tops for aluminum cans.