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Sen. Sessions tours Eufaula-based Humminbird - : Eufaula Tribune

Sen. Sessions tours Eufaula-based Humminbird

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Posted: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 4:12 pm | Updated: 4:21 pm, Wed Apr 10, 2013.

Eufaula-based Humminbird is once again a star in the local economy.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, along with several community and business leaders, recently learned more about the marine electronics manufacturer as they toured the plant last week.

Humminbird general manager Craig Packard led the tour, which included Mayor Jack Tibbs, council member Jason Bennett and county commissioners Earl Gilmore, Pat Ivey, Frank Straughn and Fred Cooper. Packard mentioned the importance of Johnson Outdoors, which acquired Humminbird in 2004. That purchase was a shot in the arm for the local plant.

“Quite frankly, we are (now) one of the stars of Johnson Outdoors,” Packard said. “Innovation and technology have really driven our business.”

Before the tour, Packard described Humminbird as a “fully integrated marine electronics manufacturer.” According to information he gave to tour participants:

    » Humminbird is the world’s leading fishfinder for freshwater fishing, and is sold in more than 100 countries.

    » Humminbird has enjoyed sales growth of 150 percent in the last 10 years.

    » 209 people currently work in Eufaula, with five new engineering positions slated for 2013.

    » There has been a $14.4 million investment in the plant and equipment in the past 10 years.

    » A new research and development facility is also planned this year.

Packard said there are several reasons for Humminbird’s success. He cited the “right ownership” along with its partnership with fellow Johnson Outdoors subsidiary Minn Kota – one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of boat motors.

Packard also said employees are also committed to building a quality product.

“We’ve proven we can be successful in Eufaula and Barbour County,” Packard said.

Sessions said he was happy to learn more about Humminbird’s recent successes. He talked briefly with several Humminbird employees while touring the plant.

“It was fabulous to see your employees,” Sessions told Packard after the tour. “They really seem happy – and busy. It’s proof that Alabama workers can do high tech stuff.”

Sessions also cited the need for fewer regulations, an improved tax structure and lower energy costs. He said those changes would “help you be competitive against anybody in the world.”

Sessions spoke briefly about Eufaula, saying “You always have a lot of good things going on.”

Before the tour, Sessions asked city officials about sales tax revenues. Bennett told Sessions that revenues were down 4 percent from this time last year. Tibbs added, “But we’re building momentum.”

Gilmore told Sessions a one-half cent sales tax increase that commissioners approved last year has significantly helped the county.

“It saved our lives,” Gilmore said. “We were on the way to bankruptcy.”