By Jim Cooper, Editor

The bottom line will determine the location for an expansion of Mustang Survival - or if an expansion will take place at all.

Greg Stover, manager of Mustang's plant in Elizabeth, said company officials are currently studying the feasibility of opening a satellite facility in either Spencer or Mineral Wells.

"We're actually making an operating budget for each location," Stover said. "The numbers are being crunched now."

Mustang is a 40-year-old Canadian-based company noted as an industry leader in the manufacture of personal flotation devices, survival suits and other life-saving apparel. Its clients include NASA and the military as well as the private sector.

A scarcity of potential workers in Wirt County prompted the company to look at other areas for an expansion. About 20 jobs will be created immediately, with up to 100 possible within two years.

Production jobs would start at $8 an hour with a benefits package including health, dental and life insurance.

Nearly 400 people showed up at a job fair in Spencer earlier this month after a similar event in Parkersburg a day earlier drew 135 applicants.

Stover, who helped conduct the job fairs, said about 100 people tested for sewing jobs in Spencer as compared to around 70 in Parkersburg. He said the number of potential sewers was adequate for the expansion to take place at either location.

Stover and Craig Fisher, a Mustang vice president, toured potential sites last week. Mark Whitley, economic development director for Roane and Jackson counties, showed them two vacant buildings - the former Goodrich building in the Roane Industrial Park and the former Kellwood plant on Oak Drive - one of which local officials are hoping the company will find suitable.

"I thought the tour went well," Stover said, adding that it included a meeting with Spencer Mayor Terry Williams and Jim McCulty, president of the Roane Economic Development Authority. "It showed support from the community."

Stover and Fisher also looked at a site in Mineral Wells during a tour conducted by Jim Mylott, head of the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council. The building is within sight of the I-77 interchange and is still being used in a limited capacity as a manufacturing concern is phasing out its operations.

Stover said the two Roane sites would need some renovations before Mustang could begin operations, while the Mineral Wells building is ready for occupancy.

"Oh absolutely," he said of the readiness of the Mineral Wells site. "It's not vacant. It's been used and well-kept."

According to Stover, a decision by Mustang is still "a couple of weeks out." He said the company was exploring training assistance that would be available from the state while considering which community offers the best chance for a profitable business.

"We're still in the process of doing due diligence," he explained. "We're asking, 'what's your best offer?'"

Stover also mentioned the possibility that the expansion would not come about if the numbers were not favorable.

"It's still an exploratory expansion effort," he said. "It's just got to make dollars and cents."

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