Cowley County officials hail defense contract

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News,Business

ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Officials in south-central Kansas' Cowley County are hailing a $220 million defense contract for a local plant as the latest in a string of positive economic developments.

GE Aviation's engine services plant at Strother Field in Winfield recently secured the multi-year contract to perform repair and overhaul work on the Navy's T700 helicopter engine.

"This type of order will go a long way in supporting our site, and allowing it to maintain its shop volume and employment base," plant manager Jorge Perez told The Arkansas City Traveler (http://bit.ly/1jNiLSw ).

The work won't add jobs at the Strother Field operation, which now has 654 employees, but the contract is beneficial for business stability, Perez said.

But another large Cowley County employer, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, plans to start working soon with economic development agency Cowley First to begin recruiting 300 workers for jobs it expects to add over three years.

The fabrication area of the Arkansas City meatpacking plant was heavily damaged by fire in September 2013. Creekstone officials said late last year they would replace the fire-damaged areas and build an additional, 71,000-square-foot building that's expected to be finished late this summer.

About 720 people currently work at the plant.

"They'll be able to implement an additional processing line with completion of the expansion," said Kerri Falletti, Cowley First community and economic development director.

Jobs at the county's largest employer, the Newell Rubbermaid plant in Winfield, grew from 565 to 969 in the past two years.

Falletti said the Winfield operation has benefited from several consolidations within the plastics molding business. Including an expansion two years ago, Rubbermaid has invested more than $60 million during the past decade in growing its business in Cowley County.

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Information from: The Arkansas City (Kan.) Traveler, http://www.arkcity.net

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