By Louie Graves
Husqvarna’s big day in the spotlight in Nashville Nov. 8 overcame gray skies and consistent sprinkles.
The weather didn’t keep the official celebration of the new solar power grid and the first shovels of dirt at the 350,000 sq. ft. warehouse from happening, however.
There were visitors from Sweden, from corporate offices, from construction companies and by elected local and Arkansas officials. But the spotlight was on longtime employees — one who symbolically threw the switch at the solar panels, and the dozen-plus who were the first to turn shovels of fragrant, wet earth later at the warehouse site.
Plant Manager Marty Renfrow welcomed the group and also had a part in the final activity at the Flip the Switch, which officially marked the addition of the 4-acre facility which turns sun rays into electricity. Renfrow, along with Humberto Sanchez, a tool and die-maker who is the company’s most senior employee at the plastic molding plant, joined Todd Anderson, General Manager of Operations for the Swedish-owned Husqvarna Group, and Matthew Irving of Today’s Power, in a symbolic flipping of a large switch. Today’s Power is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives.
The event took place under a tent in the middle of the four-acre site north of Nashville, surrounded by more than 2,600 solar panels.
Among the speakers were Valentin Dahlhaus, Senior Vice President with Husqvarna, and Asa Larsson, Global Media and Sustainability Manager for the company — both Swedes. Both emphasized the importance the company places upon reducing the carbon footprint and being geo-friendly.
The facility will generate more than one megawatt of DC electricity which will be converted to AC and used to operate the plant. It will furnish about one-fourth of the electricity needed. When there is no demand, the electricity will be a part of the grid which furnishes electricity for other area needs.
Jim Moore, Vice President, supply Chain of Husqvarna Consumer Brands Division, told the shivvering crowd that Husqvarna was the last manufacturer of handheld lawn and garden products in North America.
Tony Cochran, General manager of Husqvarna’s operations in Nashville, made closing comments.
It was a busy day for Nashville Mayor Billy Ray Jones who gave welcoming talks at the morning solar event, and a few hours later when earth was symbolically turned for a new warehouse facility.
There was little let-up in rain and cool temperatures in the afternoon when a crowd gathered under another tent at the other end of town. The event was the symbolic turning of the earth for a new 350,000 sq. ft. warehouse facility to be built near the company’s original structure in south Nashville.
Steve Harville, Plant Manager of the Lawn and Garden plant in Nashville gave a welcome talk. There were comments by Mayor Jones, State Sen. Larry Teague, Program Manager Todd Anderson, Supply Chain vp Jim Moore, and Gary Condron, owner of the construction company spoke.
After comments by Nashville plants General Manager Tony Cochran, a dozen of the company’s original employees from the late 1970s startup, took shovels and turned earth. A string of company officials and vendors then took turns with the shovels.
The big day came on the heels of a recent major safety presentation to the Husqvarna Wilson Street plant, marking 15 years without a lost time injury.
The warehouse will store manufactured products and materials. The project, including outfitting the interior, totals approximately $24 million, according to a company handout.
In Nashville, Husqvarna manufactures weedtrimmers, chainsaws, blowers and other lawn and garden products.