A nationwide slowdown in home construction isn't stopping Amarr Garage Doors from ramping up production and service at its Lawrence manufacturing canter.
The North Carolina-based company plans to add up to 91 more employees by the end of next year at its plant in the East Hills Business Park, which supplies doors to builders through company-run stores and to do-it-yourselfers through Lowe's locations and other retailers worldwide.
"You've got to keep on growing," said Kirsten Krug, director of people for Amarr. "You can't stop."
To help prepare the new employees for their work - whether it's on the production floor, in administrative operations or in the plant's call center - Amarr will take advantage of a state-sponsored incentive program.
Amarr will get up to $54,600 in Kansas Industrial Training funds from the Department of Commerce. The money will help provide varied levels of instruction, from leadership skills to forklift licensing.
In the end, Amarr will be able to use state money to help finance up to half of the wages for new employees for as much as two weeks of training.
"That's huge for any company," said Jon Jones, Amarr's training and development manager.
Amarr, with 670 employees in Lawrence, plans to add 50 to 91 more through the end of 2008, Krug said.
"But I think we're being conservative," Krug said, as work crews scurried to load door panels into trucks for delivery. "We're just estimating, to work with the state on the grant. I think that good growth is good growth, and you never know: It may be more in the future."
Amarr's production is increasing, even as construction of new homes has plummeted in the midst of a national housing slump. That's because the company is seeing increased interest from do-it-yourselfers, who buy their own doors at Lowe's stores and through other sites, such as Costco and Sam's Club's www.samsclub.com, Krug said.
Amarr also is closing in on its larger rivals, picking up market share with products that are well designed, competitively priced and supplied through retailers and door centers - more than 3,000 in all - that are close to customers, she said.
In Lawrence, Amarr's production center has been filling up since an addition in 2005 expanded the center to 411,000 square feet, where employees make doors, handle support tasks, take calls in a customer-service center and even tend to aches and pains in Amarr's free on-site health clinic.
The center had 480 employees before the expansion, and the payroll has been growing ever since.