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.