Update: Martin Sprocket & Gear hopes to rebuild after fire

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - Officials with Martin Sprocket and Gear, Inc. said they would like to rebuild its Paragould plant after fire gutted the shipping and warehouse areas Sunday. In a statement released to Region 8 News, Reid Martin, president, said the Paragould facility is important to the company.

Martin released this statement. "The Paragould facility is extremely important to our company, and we are very proud of the long relationship we have had in the community. Our goal is to rebuild - getting our employees back to work as soon as possible. As we work through the rebuilding phase, we want to ensure our customers that they will continue to receive uninterrupted service from our inventories that are positioned throughout North America."

Martin Sprocket and Gear in Paragould employs 160 people. Monday morning, most were given a week to wait and see what the company will do, according to employees.

"What I came out here to do today was volunteer for a cleanup crew if they were going to need one and give me a call. I'm sure there will be other people out here because the quicker we can get this up and running, the quicker we can get a paycheck in our pocket," said Ken Jones.

Jones said he's been employed with Martin for 5 years after working for a temporary service. Jones, a 22-year army veteran, said the company is good to its employees.

"I figure it's going to come back because this one factory makes a lot. I mean, Martin's got them all over the country. This one makes more than most," said Jones. "There are other people that have been out here a long time and they're looking at their livelihood going up in smoke."

Jones said he found out about the fire when his mother saw smoke. Early Sunday morning, Jones said he came out to see the fire first hand and was upset with what he witnessed.

"She said, hey, your job is burning up. I was like, oh great, just what we need. So I jumped in the truck. I guess it was about 8:30-9:00 yesterday morning and there was smoking coming up from the warehouse on both sides. I was like, oh no, there goes the inventory," said Jones. "That was money going up in smoke. Not only for us because of the time everybody put in building this stuff making them, but the company is losing inventory."

Officials with the Paragould Fire Department have not yet determined a cause for the blaze. Investigators believe the blaze started in the middle of the building before spreading to the warehouse and shipping areas.

"You're talking about a vast amount of information and things to sift through. They're going to get into it. They'll look at all different angles to see what possibly could have happened. Could it have been a lightning strike? Yeah, it could have been. Could it have been equipment malfunction? Sure, it could have been. There are numerous things that could have happened," said Fire Chief Kevin Lang, Paragould Fire Department.

Lang said the company's insurance representatives will examine the damage and determine a cause. The investigation will also determine how much damage was done monetarily.

"The heat and the damage is where you've really got the destruction in the center area of the building," said Lang.

According to Lang, 50% of the complex was destroyed Sunday in the blaze. Most of the damage was located in the rear of the structure.

"You still got offices. You've still got a large portion of the manufacturing area. You've still got some raw material storage areas. You've got some C&C machine areas. Their machine shop up front, it may have some smoke damage but there shouldn't be any damage to equipment," said Lang.

"Martin Sprocket and Gear is trying to assess the damage and assess where they're going to be. How long it's going to take them. What avenues they have," said Sue McGowan, Director of the Paragould Regional Chamber of Commerce.

McGowan said she contacted company representatives Monday morning regarding storage and office space.

"The community is very open in assisting Martin in any way that we can. As far as temporary office space to assist them in finding them space they might need," said McGowan. "We've already been in talks with them in regards to alternate locations for any type of need that they might have and there is some availability in the area for those needs."

McGowan expressed sadness for the 160 families temporarily out of work.

"We do have 160 families that will be affected during this time and we have great concern for those families, because they have responsibilities in their own households," said McGowan.

Jones said he has been able to catch up on his mortgage and car payments within the last 6 months, but he's concerned about his financial future.

"As far as this place goes, where it burned, it started in my department. So I'm definitely out of a job for a while until they replace that," said Jones.

Jones said he has been able to talk with other employees, who have mixed feelings about the situation.

"Some of them are scared. They don't know what they're going to do. Others are, I don't think it's sunk in. They're kind of laughing it off, oh we had a fire. Oh, we're out of a job. Another vacation and I'm thinking, yeah. I just came off of vacation. I don't need this," said Jones.

"Martin Sprocket and Gear has been a long time employer here in Paragould and they have several employees that have been with them for long periods of time. They've been a very good employer," said McGowan.

"Its' a good sized plant. It's been here for many, many years. I hope they're able to pick up from here and move forward and keep things moving," said Lang.

"For the most part, everybody is pretty upbeat about the company coming back. We think they will," said Jones.

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