Mid-South Electronics of Annville has been awarded a contract of about $15 million to assemble high-tech baggage screening systems for small- and medium-sized airports.
U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, a Somerset Republican, announced the contract during a news conference yesterday at Mid-South's facilities in the Jackson County Regional Industrial Park, a little more than three months after a fire destroyed the company's main plant.
Rogers, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, said in a news release that assembling the baggage-screening systems "puts Kentuckians right in the middle of national homeland-security efforts."
Mid-South will assemble about 100 Explosive Detection System machines developed by Reveal Imaging Technologies of Bedford, Mass.
Rogers said that with the new machines, "passengers will spend less time standing in line at airport checkpoints, the government will spend less money on unnecessary screeners and aviation security will improve dramatically."
Jerry Weaver, founder and president of Mid-South Industries, the parent corporation, said the significance for the company extends beyond the amount of the contract.
Weaver said the new contract is not likely to increase employment, but that the high-tech work required for the baggage screening machines will raise employee skill levels and prepare the company to take on other high-tech production for the U.S. market.
Mid-South is bumping up against intense competition outside the United States, especially in China, where that nation's manufacturers sell for lower prices that make it hard for U.S. companies to compete.
The machines are the new generation of baggage scanning systems, smaller and faster than those currently used by small and medium airports. Reveal is one of only three companies certified by the Transportation Security Administration to produce the machines.
Rogers, in his position as subcommittee chairman, obtained for Mid-South essentially half of the $30 million that Congress appropriated for these machines in 2005.
The other $15 million will be used for installation and deployment of the baggage-screening systems.
Rogers, who spent three hours yesterday touring Mid-South's facilities, said the new contract is a testament to the company's "workmanship and reputation for producing quality products."
Yesterday's announcement was another indication that Mid-South is on an upswing since a fire Jan. 15 destroyed its main plant.
Last week, company officials said that business is so strong it is hiring workers for all three shifts.
Since the fire, Mid-South has returned to full production and nearly full employment of about 700 workers, officials said.
At its Annville plant, Mid-South assembles circuit boards and produces plastic-injection molding used in ice and water dispensers for refrigerators. Frigidaire is Mid-South's biggest customer.
Rogers praised Mid-South's employees for a "great job of picking themselves up from what was a potentially devastating blow" from the fire.
A week ago, a company employee, Leroy Hubbard, 32, of Manchester, was charged with first-degree arson and first-degree wanton endangerment in connection with the fire. He pleaded not guilty.