A who’s who of the local business community, economic development agencies and political officeholders gathered with Gov. Phil Bryant on Friday to welcome Lynx Grills to Leflore County and the Delta.
The company, owned by The Middleby Corp., the parent of Viking Range, will immediately hire 100 workers and relocate its headquarters and manufacturing facilities into an 87,000-square-foot plant along U.S. 82 where Viking once made dishwashers. Another 100 people will be hired over the next five years.
The workers will staff Lynx headquarters and produce high-end outdoor grills and outdoor kitchens under the Lynx brand. Viking has been running operations at the plant for a couple of months, and about 40 of their workers took a break for the ribbon-cutting before returning to work making Lynx-designed grills under the Viking label.
“In Mississippi, we still make things,” Bryant said. “We’re manufacturers. All the world thought that’s not going to happen anymore; China’s going to do it all. No, they’re not. I got news for folks all around the world. Mississippi can compete with anybody, and we are.”
Bryant said his administration has added 80,000 jobs statewide and put together more deals in the Delta during 2019 than any other region in the state. He listed investments this year by private companies and the jobs created, including Baxter Pharmaceuticals in Cleveland with 70 new jobs, Southern Coffee Service in Lexington with 55 jobs, People Shores in Clarksdale with 175 jobs, United Solutions in Sardis with 50 jobs, Humana in Sardis with 25 jobs, and Image Industries in Clarksdale with 50 jobs.
“That’s six new expansions or companies,” Bryant said. “I’ve always believed in luck. Lucky number seven. And lucky number seven is Lynx, right here in Greenwood, Mississippi.”
The governor toured the plant before speaking and admired the grills on display. Online retailers sell some Lynx grills for more than $10,000.
“Whoever buys these will be fortunate, and they’ll love it,” Bryant said. “And I can tell you guys, you know what we’ll do: We’ll bring our friends out in the backyard, whoever buys these, and show it to them. ‘You got to come see the grill. Best in the world, oh yeah.’ And your wife’s going to say, ‘Oh, he just can’t get over that thing.’”
Kevin Brown, Viking president, started with the company in the same building that Lynx will occupy, when Viking built dishwashers there until 2015.
“This project truly highlights the strength of state and local community resources, all working together, talking, listening, believing, trusting each other and finding innovative solutions to the barriers along the way,” Brown said. He singled out Viking Chief Financial Officer Jane Moss for her leadership and efforts on the project.
“The Middleby leadership team is confident in the proven manufacturing expertise of the local Mississippi Delta workforce,” Brown said. “With the addition of Lynx Grills to our existing Viking operations, we are proud to have expanded local production with two of the finest and most highly recognized luxury appliance brands now headquartered in our state.”
Ben Harper, a Greenwood native who has been with Viking Range for 13 years, has been named plant manager at Lynx Grills.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for the Delta and Greenwood,” Harper said. “... You’re employing people; that’s the big thing. It’s great for the community. It’s great for Greenwood. We’re hiring people in skilled positions.”
Adrian Sutton of Drew has been working at the plant for two weeks as a metal finisher. He had worked for UPS for six years, including three in California, before coming back to Mississippi in February to be closer to family in Cleveland. He had been unemployed for three to four months before being hired at Lynx.
“I love it, being in a nice, cool environment,” he said. “Everyone helps each other. What you don’t know, they try to teach you.”
Anyone interested in applying for one of the positions open at Lynx Grills can visit the state’s WIN Job Center in the Greenwood Center, near JCPenney, on Park Avenue, or look online at vikingrange.com/careers.
•Contact Gavin Maliska at 581-7235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.