Arkansas glass company still in business after 70 years
JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) — It all started with a minnow trap in 1948.
Now, 70 years later, Arkansas Glass Container Corp. produces and distributes glass products globally.
As the company recently celebrated its anniversary by hosting vocational educators from throughout Northeast Arkansas, Vicki Rampley, president of the company, said she’s looking to a long future.
“Arkansas Glass is the last family-owned, American-owned glass container corporation in the United States,” Rampley said. “Back 20, 25 years ago there were around 50 or 60. They could not handle the changes. They could not handle the challenges, and Arkansas Glass did.”
She said God blessed the people who work there with the knowledge and tenacity to make sure the company could stay in business.
“What we are looking for are leaders in our community who can take the next years forward and helping our young people understand this is a Godly place where you can have your ‘home job,’ is what we call it,” Rampley said. “We take care of our employees. They are family. It’s not the building.”
With a 3 percent unemployment rate here, Rampley said her company has to compete for skilled workers.
“Companies come into Jonesboro that are brand new. They’re shiny, and they offer a lot,” Rampley said. “They sometimes stay, and they sometimes go. Arkansas Glass has stayed here for 70 years.”
While she and husband, Anthony, who have owned the company since 1986, won’t be there forever, she said Arkansas Glass is poised for a long future.
“But these kids are going to stay here a lot longer,” Rampley continued. “Do I want to share with this new company trying to fight for another 130 employees that they’re going to want at their plant? No, I do not. But we aren’t going to short change these people who have choices about where they want to go, because we’ve just got to get the word out that it is good here. It is good.”
Untrained, beginning workers have a starting salary of $12.75 per hour with full benefits. As they gain skills, wages move upward to $50,000 to $70,000 annually, the Jonesboro Sun reported.
Rampley said the work the employees do is fascinating.
“I just can’t say it enough. I’m so proud of these people who are proud to make something,” Rampley said. “And it’s glass. And it’s green (environmentally). But for the recycle side of it, you all have seen on TV about the plastics and what they’re trying to do. Plastics do leach. Glass does not.”
Several years ago, the Rampleys adopted 13 of the Lost Boys of Sudan, children who fled the civil war in their native country by walking up to 1,000 miles to safety.
Those adopted boys, many of whom work at Arkansas Glass, have produced 18 grandchildren, she said.
The rest of the employees have embraced them and helped them learn American culture.
Offering second chances is another major part of the company’s hiring philosophy.
With members of their own family having experienced drug addictions, they support John 3:16 Ministries, and gladly employ graduates from the program.
They also accept workers with criminal histories.
As for the minnow trap, local business leaders recruited Indiana glassmaker Carl McSwain to Jonesboro shortly after the end of World War II, Tony Rampley said. After they saturated the market with the minnow traps, McSwain began to diversify into food and drink containers. Rampley acquired the company from a group of local investors, led by the late J.T. White.
“He was 80 years old,” Tony Rampley said. “He was ready to retire.”
When the Rampleys bought the company, it employed almost 500 people, but had no automation.
Now, the highly mechanized business employs 250 to 275, but the Rampleys said they need more workers to keep the success story going.
Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, http://www.jonesborosun.com