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GS Industries changes with the times, now adding jobs
Hank McHale, chief executive officer of GS Industries of Bassett shows plastic parts it is making for children's products. That is a new market for the company, and it is behind the expansion it announced Tuesday. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
More than 35 years ago when the Martinsville-Henry County area was a "boom town," GS Industries of Bassett served the furniture industries with its custom plastic injection-molded products, according to its chief executive officer.
Now, a lot of that work has gone to China, said CEO Hank McHale. So GS has "torqued up its marketing" and is finding new uses for its expertise, he said.
The result is Tuesday's announcement that GS is expanding and adding 35 jobs to produce parts for a globally recognized manufacturer of infant and toddler toys and accessories. It currently has 75 employees.
Of the 35 new positions, 21 will be machine operators and the rest will be in support roles and tooling maintenance at the company's 148,000-square-foot building on Rosemont Road in Bassett.
"At a time when domestic manufacturing continues to struggle, we're bucking the trend with quality work, on-time delivery, low manufacturing costs and tooling transfer experience," McHale said.
The company's newest client, Atlanta-based Kids II Inc., globally manufactures, markets and distributes products under its signature Bright Starts brand and holds a license to design and manufacture products under the Disney Baby and Baby Einstein brands. Most recently, it acquired the intellectual property rights to Rhino Toys and Taggies. Kids II produces more than 400 products worldwide under its brand portfolio.
GS Industries' injection-molded plastics will be used in Baby Einstein's Around the World Discovery Center, an activity saucer for babies. The company's work also will be used to make high chairs, potty seats, booster seats and other items for the U.S. and global markets. The first parts were shipped worldwide in late August.
McHale explained that GS makes the larger pieces for the baby items, such as the base for the activity saucer, out of molded plastic. The flat piece is packaged with small toys that go on the saucer and which are imported from China.
GS then ships the items from Bassett to customers in this country and Europe, using eastern Virginia ports.
The products are sold by Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, Target and other large retailers, McHale said.
"With shipping costs rising due to fuel prices, manufacturers are realizing that parts and products can be made more efficiently here at home rather than importing them," McHale said.
GS also makes bobbins and cylinders for the textile industry, including carpet companies. Its customers include Mohawk, Shaw Industries and Fruit of the Loom, McHale said.
To diversify, he said GS had been boosting its marketing efforts and was at a trade show in Atlanta when officials with Kids II came by its booth.
"They were impressed with our quality, delivery and low cost," McHale said.
He added that Henry County's low labor costs and access to convenient transportation were factors in Kids II selecting the company to perform the work.
"We are excited about our partnership with Kids II," McHale said. "They're growing and constantly developing new products that we hope we can be a part of in the future."�
The new jobs are welcome news for Henry County.
"At a time when manufacturing is focused so much on overseas, here's an example of how American labor, quality and know-how right here in Henry County can be competitive in a global economy," said Mark Heath, president and CEO of Martinsville-Henry County Development Corp.
McHale said the company has capacity to grow even more.
"People in this area have lost a lot of employment. Anything that comes in, even if it's 35 jobs at this time, is a pretty big deal around here," he said. "It's a little breath of fresh air, and it provides some hope."�