RUSSELL — A Utah-based engineering and manufacturing company expects to create 200 jobs in Russell over the next two to three years with a hemp product manufacturing plant.
Mechanized Concepts is moving in now to a 60,000-square-foot vacant plant formerly occupied in the 1980s and 1990s by RV manufacturer King of the Road.
“We’re excited about having new industry coming in to Russell County,” said Janae Talbott, director of the Russell County Economic Development and Convention and Visitors Bureau.
So far, about a dozen employees are on site, Talbott said, with expectations for 25 by the end of the year.
Mechanized Concepts has already begun moving into the building on the 15-acre site, which includes manufacturing and office space, said Russell businessman Tim Scheck, owner of the building at 553 S. Front St.
“Right now I’m letting them use it to get started,” Scheck said. “Once they get started and get cash flow they can lease or buy it.”
Based in Lindon, Utah, Mechanized Concepts was founded by a team of industrial engineers in 2013 and works with companies to design consumer and manufacturing products, according to its website.
The hemp product line is a new startup business for the company, Scheck said.
“They’re going to help farmers get the seed, help with planting, cultivation and processing,” he said. “We’ve already selected farmers.”
Hemp is planted in the spring and has a four-month growing period, Scheck said. The plant’s tall stalks are harvested and baled. Mechanized Concepts plans to install a processing plant at the Russell location to use the local hemp as raw material.
“There are 25,000 products made out of hemp right now,” Scheck said. “It’s one of the strongest fibers there is.”
The company’s hemp product line will include hemp composite lumber and plywood, hemp concrete, paper, roofing tiles and shingles, said Michael Parsons, digital media manager for the Russell economic development bureau.
Mechanized Concepts is moving its shop from Utah to Russell, Parsons said. They are shipping in some existing machinery, as well as installing new equipment.
Mechanized Concepts applied for economic incentives from the city of Russell for working capital to move their operations to Russell.
Russell County approved a $500,000 loan using proceeds from the county’s half-cent economic development sales tax, said Matt Driscoll, who has been hired as director of community advocacy for Mechanized Concepts.
The city of Russell has approved $500,000 for the company, but details on that incentive were not available at press time.
In addition, the state of Kansas through the Department of Commerce has also confirmed incentives, Driscoll said.
“They are going to do an incentive package,” he said. “We don’t know when that will be finalized.”
Gov. Laura Kelly will be on hand for a ceremonial ribbon cutting at 1:15 p.m. Thursday, July 18, in Cecil Bricker Park at the corner of Main and Eighth streets in Russell.
Other state officials expected to be in Russell from Topeka include Secretary of Commerce David Toland and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Beam, as well as Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers, said Driscoll.
Scheck said he views the plant as a regional opportunity.
“The economic development people were trying to find a supplemental crop for the farmers, that’s how we really got started,” Scheck said. “If we can create jobs with this, and help farmers have an alternative crop that has cash value ... just think what we could do. It’s for everybody, it’s not just for one town.”