Intimidator Inc., the Batesville manufacturer of four-wheel-drive utility vehicles and its Spartan "zero-turn" lawnmowers, said Monday it will add more than 400 employees over the next four years as part of a $12 million expansion.
The investment will include a second manufacturing plant, this one in the Independence County Industrial Park, Becky and Robert Foster, company owners, said at an event attended by Gov. Asa Hutchinson and several local and state economic development officials.
The Fosters said continued growth in the utility vehicle market and stronger engines made the expansion possible. "We're so thankful, too, for all the hard work of our employees," Becky Foster said.
The Fosters also own Bad Dog Accessories, which provides after-market accessories for utility vehicles, and Gourmet Guru Grill, a combination of a grill, smoker and ceramic oven. Intimidator Inc. is the umbrella company for all three and has 180 employees. Foster said Intimidator had 38 employees when it opened in November 2013.
Intimidator will be eligible for state incentives, including a cash rebate equal to 4.25 percent of annual payroll for the new jobs for five years, sales tax refunds on building materials, machinery and equipment associated with the expansion, and community development block grants of $1.5 million, according to state economic development officials.
Robert Foster and Spartan Mowers were sued earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Batesville by Bad Boy Mowers, also in Batesville.
The lawsuit contends that Foster, a co-founder of Bad Boy and former shareholder, has infringed on patents now owned by Bad Boy. Foster was a shareholder of Bad Boy until 2013, when he sold the stock, and incorporated Spartan Mowers in 2015, according to the lawsuit.
"I can't say much about that, but it is competitive," Becky Foster said of Batesville having two lawnmower manufacturers.
She said the two met as children. He was 12; she was 11. She was from Olyphant in Jackson County; he was from Thida in Independence County. Becky Foster's father had a small grocery store in Olyphant, and Robert's father had a route selling Dr Pepper. "I was helping my father, and he was helping his," she said.
The two married in 1983. She was 16, and he was 17, she said. He built his first lawnmower lawmmower in 1998, Becky Foster said.
Scott Hardin, a spokesman, for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said the lawsuit was never part of the discussions between the state and Intimidator.
"We've had relationships with both Bad Boy and Intimidator for several years," Hardin said. "Bad Boy has gotten the same sort of incentives."
Bad Boy opened in 2002 in Batesville with 25 employees, Hardin said. In 2008, the company received a $750,000 community development block grant to build a road, and a $1.5 million grant in 2012. Last December, the company announced a $7.8 million expansion that would create 160 jobs. Bad Boy's total employment, after the 160, would be 750, Hardin said.
Bad Boy is at 102 Industrial Park Drive, but Spartan Mowers is at 1 Bad Boy Boulevard. Spartan's second facility will be just down the road from the Bad Boy operations.
Becky Foster said Spartan has begun foundation work on a smaller plant that will produce many of the company's 2017 models. Another plant on about 17 acres in the park will open in about 18 months.
Business on 09/20/2016