Small businesses are part of a global economy (Community Correspondent)

Published 9:47 am Tuesday, March 17, 2015

New construction at Specialty Wood Products in Clanton will add 7,000 square feet to the facility.

New construction at Specialty Wood Products in Clanton will add 7,000 square feet to the facility.

What started in Jemison as a basket company for peach growers is now a display producer for the beverage industry. Jemison Baskets Company is now known as Specialty Wood Products, a division of Jemison Basket, and is located in Clanton. Seventy-two-year-old Bonny Smith is the leader, and his sons are involved in this family-owned business. In 1980, Specialty Wood Products moved to Clanton and began operation one year later.



As a small business, they are proud that some of the employees they started with 40 years ago are still working for the company. Smith talks about the many local people who worked summers and weekends for him throughout the years.

The current 26 employees have seen changes in the company over these years. In addition to changing from baskets to wood beverage displays the shop is now departmentalized and expansion is underway to add more space to make shipping easier.

New construction will add 7,000 square feet to the present 36,000 square-foot building. This expansion and the new equipment will add $150,000 in capital expense.

Specialty Wood Products build wood display products that are used in stores to highlight beverage products. The Clanton displays are sold to a company that then markets them to major companies like Coca-Cola. These companies are worldwide and thus the displays can be found in many foreign countries.

Bonny Smith takes pride in the fact that much of the material that he uses in building his displays are bought from suppliers here in Chilton County like Taylor Made-Reynolds in Maplesville and Ubique in Clanton.

Based on recent talks with their main client, Specialty Wood Products is anticipating a three-fold increase in the demands for their product.

Another example of a small business in Chilton County that is on the move is Mid-South Fabrication. Located in Jemison, Mid-South Fabrication, another family- owned business, began in Helena in 1999 and moved to Chilton County almost four years ago. Located off Highway 31 north of Jemison where Highway 155 goes to Montevallo, they now feel at home because 18 of the 21 employees live in Chilton County.

Mid-South manufactures electrical substations and, working through a “packager,” sells to a contractor hired by an electrical power company for installation. Their substations have been installed throughout the United States and in several countries worldwide. Most of the installations can be found in Texas and throughout the south.

Kevin Blankenship, president of the company, says the structural steel products used in their business are bought from Alabama suppliers and manufactured on-site to specification for the contractor. Over the past two years, new equipment has helped the fabrication process, resulting in a steady growth.

“We started with three employees in 1999, and in 2014-2015 we hired three new people for a total of 21 employees. We now ship close to 4 million pounds of finished products out per year.”

Blankenship is proud of his employees, saying several have been with him for 15 years and he pointed out one employee who works hard for him during the day and then takes college classes at night.

“We have little turnover and I like that,” he says.

–Fred Crawford is the Chilton County Industrial Development Coordinator. Look for another installment of his column in a future edition of The Clanton Advertiser.