By AMANDA KIMBLE
STEPHENVILLE (November 28, 2016) – More than a year after the rope manufacturing plant was destroyed by fire, Equibrand is preparing to move into its new Stephenville facility, according to Ed Pinder, chief financial officer.
“It’s coming along,” Pinder said of the construction project. “Maybe not as quickly as we would like, but we hope to have everything up and running around February.”
He said now the building is enclosed, equipment would be moved into the new facility over the coming weeks.
Equibrand has been operating out of a temporary facility in the Granbury area since the manufacturing plant was destroyed by fire in November 2015. Following the incident, local business leaders from Stephenville Economic Development Foundation (STEDCO), chamber of commerce and Stephenville Economic Development Authority reached out to encourage Equibrand officials to relocate from Hood County to Erath County.
The new facility is located just outside the Stephenville city limits on U.S. Highway 377 North. The property included more than 20 acres of land behind the United States Team Roping Championships (USTRC) headquarters.
For most existing Equibrand employees, the relocation means a shorter commute to and from work.
“Most of the rope (manufacturing) employees are from the Stephenville area,” he said. “That is one of the main reasons we chose Stephenville.”
It’s not yet clear if the relocation will bring job openings to the local area.
“It remains to be seen how many people we will need to hire once we are up and operational,” Pinder said. “We do not yet know if everyone will continue working once everything has been moved to Stephenville.”
About 10 existing employees lived in Hood, Tarrant or Somervell counties.
A June news release from Stephenville Chamber of Commerce estimated the cost of the new facility to be more than $4 million, with more than $1.5 million in new equipment, about $1.2 million in inventory and annual payroll of about $1.8 million for about 50 full-time employees.
To facilitate the relocation, Erath County commissioners approved a tax abatement incentive for Equibrand and STEDCO approved a $25,000 grant.
Equibrand maintains a dominant share, estimated at 70 percent, of the lariat rope market, manufacturing Classic Rope, Classic Equine and Rattler Rope products.