Feature Story

Fifty Years Later, Award-Winning Baxter Facility in Mountain Home, Ark., Still Goes the Extra Mile for Patients, Employees and Community

Ralph Falk

Ralph Falk, chairman of the board at Baxter, addressed a crowd at the Mountain Home facility site's groundbreaking ceremony in 1964. In February that year, 25 white-uniformed employees reported for their first day of work at Baxter's 208,000 square-foot manufacturing facility in Mountain Home, Arkansas, to assemble intravenous (IV) sets. (Photo courtesy of The Baxter Bulletin.)

In February 1964, 25 white-uniformed employees reported for their first day of work at Baxter's 208,000 square-foot manufacturing facility in Mountain Home, Ark., to assemble intravenous (IV) sets. These plastic administration sets allowed intravenous solutions and blood to flow under sterile conditions to hospital patients.

Fifty years later, approximately 1,000 employees now produce components for disposable medical devices spanning the company's product portfolio—including dialysis products, intravenous solutions and delivery sets—at the now 550,000 square-foot facility, one of Baxter's largest plastics and device manufacturing plants. These products are shipped to 28 Baxter plants in 20 countries and finished goods are shipped to 94 countries.

Along the way, the Mountain Home facility has been recognized as a leader in the manufacturing of quality medical products, receiving the Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing and Industry Week magazine's "Best Plants" recognition, and twice winning the Arkansas Governor's Quality Award.

"We're very proud of the Mountain Home facility's achievements over the past five decades," says Glenn Burney, plant manager. "There have been changes over the years, but our commitment to producing quality medical products that save and sustain lives worldwide has remained a constant since the facility first opened."

Focus on Employees

Part of the facility's success is due to the dedication of its employees, including 22 employees with more than 40 years of experience.

"The employees at Mountain Home are second to none," says Burney. "They drive the success and the improvements that the facility has accomplished over the years, and are always willing to go the extra mile for whatever Baxter and our patients need."

For a number of employees at the facility, working for Baxter runs in the family. Chuck Beck, a manufacturing superintendent at the Mountain Home facility, has worked at Baxter since 2007. Beck is a "third generation" Baxter employee. His grandfather was among the first group of new hires at the Cleveland, Mississippi facility in 1950; his father started at the Cleveland, Miss., plant in 1973 and has been with Baxter for more than 40 years, moving to the Mountain Home facility in 1994.

"Baxter has been good to my family and has provided a dependable, steady income with benefits for all of us for many years, and I wanted the same stability for my family," Beck says. "I also take pride in the fact that what I do and what my fellow co-workers do sustains lives in the U.S. and abroad."

Information Services Department Specialist Linda Campbell agrees, noting that several fellow friends and family members have been employed at the Mountain Home facility over the years. Campbell, who has been with Baxter since 1967, adds that the company has provided tremendous economic value to Mountain Home and surrounding areas.

"It's helped make it possible for many to raise their families in a safe and truly beautiful area," Campbell says.

Focus on the Community

Baxter has a long history of supporting the community; Mountain Home employees volunteered more than 4,800 hours in the community in 2013 alone.

The Baxter International Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Baxter, has provided grants to help organizations in the Mountain Home area expand access to healthcare. In 2010, the Foundation awarded more than $54,000 over two years to Serenity, Inc., a domestic violence shelter in Mountain Home, to add a children's advocate to ensure children residing in the shelter receive necessary physical and mental health services. Past grant recipients also include Kindness Inc., a non-profit organization that provides essential services and home visits to area residents needing assistance. 

In 1996, Baxter's engineering employees in Mountain Home first sponsored a local team of high school students for involvement in robotics programs with FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). They have sponsored and mentored a team every year since, including the 2012 team, which won the championship.

"In addition to the financial resources required each year for Mountain Home High School students to travel to the various competitions, the team needs guidance as they create their robots and learn the concepts involved," Burney says. "Baxter provides support in both areas. Several employees volunteer their time and expertise with the students throughout the process." The investment has reaped benefits for the company as well, he adds. "FIRST has influenced many of these students to follow a career in engineering, computer programming and similar fields, and we've even been fortunate enough to hire two students who attended the local high school, participated on the FIRST teams and went on to get engineering degrees."

In 2013, the facility organized the first "Move to the Baxter Beat" 5K / 10K / 1 Mile Fun Run with more than 100 runners and walkers, including 46  Baxter employees, and raised $1,000 for the Mruk Center on Aging to benefit its Mended Hearts Program. Employees also held a food drive that collected more than 750 pounds of food and $800 in monetary donations for the Mountain Home Food Basket.

Focus on the Future

Burney also notes that, as expected over the course of 50 years, the Mountain Home facility has experienced many changes. It's become more advanced as new technologies have been implemented, and the workforce has become younger as many long-term employees retire, he says.

"Business has also grown substantially as new products have been developed and new markets have opened up around the world," he notes. "Product launches over the years have led to many investments in state-of-the-art technology across the entire facility."

When asked what he likes best about his role as plant manager, Burney apologizes that his answer may be a little cliché, but says that it's really the people whom he gets to work with on a daily basis.

"We all have the same goals—wanting to improve each day and make a meaningful difference in peoples' lives," he says. "The people who work in any of Baxter's manufacturing locations all understand the significance of their jobs. I'm looking forward to continued success, growth and another 50 years of being a key part of this community and Baxter's successful future."