Groundbreaking on Pearson Street – Lockers Mfg. has outgrown old Panola Mills site

Published 4:55 am Wednesday, June 5, 2024

A rainy Friday didn’t dampen the spirits of the owners, employees, or supporters of Lockers Manufacturing, who enjoyed a groundbreaking ceremony and celebration of an expansion at one of Batesville’s newest, and fastest growing, industries.

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker attended the event, praising both the entrepreneurial vision of the company and the state and federal programs the owners will access for the expansion.

Lockers CEO Keith Dunham opened his remarks, reading a portion of scripture from I Corinthians and thanking local, state, and federal officials for their attendance. Dunham purchased the old Panola Mills building on Pearson street in 2021 and moved his manufacturing business to Batesville from Piperton, TN.

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Friday’s event was a groundbreaking for an expansion that will increase the factory’s footprint substantially, and will further rehabilitate a portion of the city that had seen a recent decline in property values and an increase in crime.

Besides the groundbreaking for the soon-to-begin facility growth, Dunham took the opportunity to share further plans for increase, including the purchase of adjacent property and the possibility of a new company headquarters being built close to the original building.

Lockers Mfg. is an industry leader in the production and installation of high end security storage units – covering everything from standard school, gym, and work lockers to storage spaces custom built for new homes and businesses. The company designs, manufactures, finishes, and installs its products in a completely vertically integrated process.

“The road to today had many twists and turns, but the toughest of Lockers culture never waivered,” Dunham said. “It became clear that the State of Mississippi was serious about manufacturing, especially Joe Azar and his office, who did an unbelievable job of attracting Made in the USA today manufacturing.”

“Because of the hard work of all our people and the City of Batesville, Lockers will compete on a global level, from right here on Pearson Street.”

Beside Sen. Wicker, other special guests included John McKay, president of the Mississippi Manufacturing Association, and Azar, the CEO of Panola Partnership.

In his remarks, Wicker said the groundbreaking event would not have been possible without a city and county government determined to make the expansion work. 

“We have job friendly leaders locally and in the state legislature, and this is the American dream,” Wicker said. “In this country we do that by risk taking and through private enterprise believing in competition, but we do depend on government to help us along.”

Wicker said the efforts to attract and build The Concourse as a satellite campus of Northwest Community College plays a major role in economic development, and the workforce training opportunities now available in Batesville were largely responsible for the Lockers expansion and future industrial growth in Panola County.

Wicker said the federal New Market Tax Credit Program, which puts together funding that lends money to risk takers with cooperation through individual states, was an integral part of the expansion, and helps locate jobs to areas like Panola County.

“When Amazon comes in as they’ve done in greater Jackson, Nissan in Canton, we are tickled to death about that, Toyota over in Blue Springs, we are glad to have them, but the way that America creates job is to get somebody that has been successful in small business to take a risk. If we can lower the tax burden on the risk taker and they are sending less money to Washington, D.C., then they have more money to spend right here in Batesville and Panola County,” Wicker said.