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Rural Battery Manufacturer Gets Boost from USDA Business Program

Posted by Thomas Fern, Kentucky State Director, USDA Rural Development in Rural
Feb 21, 2017
Superior Battery used USDA support to improve efficiency and hire new workers for its battery manufacturing plant in Russell Springs, Kentucky.
Superior Battery used USDA support to improve efficiency and hire new workers for its battery manufacturing plant in Russell Springs, Kentucky.

Small business owners face countless challenges when it comes to finding success in the global marketplace – and for those in rural areas, the challenges are often more pronounced.

For more than 30 years, Superior Battery has been manufacturing a wide range of batteries from its plant in Russell Springs, Ky. The business is locally owned and operated, and was started by Randy Hart – an Air Force veteran and tool-and-die enthusiast – his wife and four nephews.

Over the past three decades, Superior has battled fierce competition, a disastrous plant fire and a severe economic recession. Thanks in large part to Hart’s commitment to his business, the community and his employees, the company has morphed into a major player in an industry that has seen more than 90 percent of battery manufacturers go bust. At one time, there were more than 300 battery manufacturers in the U.S. – but today there are only 14, and Superior is the youngest, according to Hart.

Hart attributes his success to diversification, reinvestment and staying up-to-date with the latest technology. He also puts tremendous emphasis on training and getting the most “bang for his buck” when it comes to large purchases.

USDA Rural Development is helping Hart maintain a competitive edge by providing assistance through the agency’s Rural Business Service. In May 2014, Superior was the recipient of a $10 million Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan through a local lender – Community Trust Bank – that made it possible for the company to finance efficiency improvements that are saving money, increasing profits and making it possible to save more than 160 jobs and create 25 new jobs.

Those jobs are vital to a community that has been hard hit by losses in the past couple of years. Russell Springs is the county seat of Russell County, one of Kentucky’s persistent poverty counties and part of USDA’s StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity.

Earlier this year, Fruit of the Loom closed its local production facility which led to the loss of 600 manufacturing jobs. In a rural county with a population of less than 18,000 – and a lack of meaningful employment opportunities – the closure was devastating.

USDA’s investment in Superior Battery is intended to help the company grow its business and improve the economic climate of the community. Superior exports its products to more than two dozen countries around the world and garners more than 30 percent of its revenue from exports.

Category/Topic: Rural

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Earnest Culbreath
Dec 18, 2014

very interested in in starting a battery business

Ben Weaver
Dec 19, 2014

@Earnest Culbreath - thanks for your comment. Your first stop should be to our friends down the street, the Small Business Administration. There are 900 Small Business Development Centers across the nation, and chances are there’s one near you. <a href="; rel="nofollow">Find the list here</a>. They will help you with setting some goals, writing a business plan, and getting you started in the process of becoming a small business owner – whether it’s a battery business or otherwise. Once you’ve got those first steps together, you’ll have a better idea of how much financing you’ll need to get it started. After that, please contact <a href="; rel="nofollow">your nearest area office for Rural Development</a> and we’ll help you find business financing that will get you on your way. Good luck!

Dec 27, 2014

Great post on a small business that has seen a lot of changes in the market and industry. I have a heart for battery recycling and affordable car batteries and would love for an opportunity to find a mentor like Mr. Hart who would be willing to share his wisdom and plant seeds for a small startup going against a lot of challenges trying to bresk into the industry.