Billy Hewes

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 15, 2011

Billy Hewes learns about the can printing process from Crown, Cork and Seal employee Jerry Mitchell last Wednesday as he toured the plant. Plant manager Larry Outlaw credited Hewes’ work with keeping the Crown facility in Mississippi. The Panolian photo by Rupert Howell

Candidate praised for past legislation at Crown visit

By Rupert Howell

Republican Lt. governor candidate Billy Hewes met Tuesday with local business people while touring Crown, Cork and Seal Company before enjoying a barbecue dinner hosted by Crown.

“I don’t think this plant would be here today if it wasn’t for this man,” Crown plant manager Larry Outlaw told local businessmen and others who had come to meet Hewes and tour the plant that employs 240 from in and around the Batesville area.

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Outlaw was referring to legislation that was endorsed by the American Legislative Council of which he served as national chairman. That council assisted with legislation later passed in Mississippi.

In 1963, Crown Cork and Seal purchased the Mundet Cork Company for $7 million,  a bottle cap manufacturer that had a small division that made cork, fiberglass and asbestos insulation. Crown incorporated the bottle cap business and sold the insulation business within 90 days.

In 1972, OSHA adopted asbestos regulations and since then Crown has paid more than $600 million dollars in settlements under the doctrine of successor liability, a concept that makes a company which purchases another company liable for legal obligations that the purchased entity had incurred.

Outlaw also said that the local Crown plant now makes eight, 12 and 16-ounce cans and lids. It is the only Crown plant that makes the eight ounce can and one of two company plants that makes the 16-ounce can.

The Batesville plant is also the only Crown plant that makes cans and their lids under the same roof, Outlaw noted.

He credited the variety of the local labor force as well as the skilled labor that allows the plant to be successful noting that a high percentage of the workers had been there 15 to 20 years.

Salaries at the plant range from $13.40 to $24 according to Outlaw.

Mississippi passed a relief bill that allowed Crown to continue to operate profitably and 15 states have used as model legislation.

Besides asking those gathered for their support, Hewes encouraged each to get involved and ask each candidate what they stand for.

Hewes faces Republican candidate and current State Treasurer Tate Reeves in the August party primary election.