By the BF Staff
From the May/June 2019 Issue
In a recent weekly radio address, Gov. Asa Hutchison hailed April as a “banner month for job creation“ in Arkansas.
“This week alone, we’ve announced two grand openings and an expansion that are projected to produce 781 jobs and investments of $141 million. When you consider the two expansions we announced in the first half of April, the total comes to over 900 new jobs and over $200 million in investment,” Hutchison said.
April’s first big ED announcement was that Coca-Cola Consolidated will expand its operations in West Memphis by 60 employees and invest $30 million. The company chose to expand at its Arkansas facility rather than across the Mississippi River in Memphis.
“When an iconic American company like Coca-Cola continues to invest in Arkansas, we know we’re doing things right,” the governor told his radio audience.
April’s second big ED news in Arkansas was Sig Sauer’s announcement that the company would expand its ammunition manufacturing plant in Jacksonville, AR. This should create 75 new jobs and the firm’s investment in Arkansas by $30 million.
“On my first day in office in 2015, I made a cold call to Sig Sauer’s president,” Hutchison revealed. “Eighteen months later, Sig Sauer was breaking ground in Jacksonville.”
Also in April, the president of the Czech firearms company CZ-USA joined the governor at the capitol to announce his company will build a plant at the Port of Little Rock, its first U.S. plant. Over the next several years, CZ-USA expects to create 565 new jobs and invest $90 million. In addition, Arkansas will be its North American Headquarters.
“As CZ looked to increase our presence in North America, it engaged in a multi-state search for the ideal location,” said Bogdan Heczko, CZ-USA chairman of the board. “The Arkansas workforce, culture, business climate and industry support cleared the way for us to choose Little Rock as our new home.”
In 2018, the Czech Republic imported some $2.6 million in commodities into Arkansas, and Arkansas exports to the country totaled roughly $8.2 million. Nearly 160 foreign-owned companies have some 300 operations in the state; however, CZ-USA is the first Czech company to have a presence in Arkansas.
Construction on CZ-USA’s plant will begin immediately, with initial start-up planned for March 2020. Production at the Little Rock facility will commence in two, three-year phases.
“We are honored to have a world-renowned brand such as CZ call Arkansas home,” Hutchinson said. “The location in the growing Port of Little Rock, combined with the high-paying jobs created by the company, will improve the quality of life for all Arkansans.”
AR’s second big announcement in April was that Aerojet Rocketdyne is enlarging its operations in East Camden. That expansion is expected to create 140 new jobs and attract more than $50 million in investment.
“While April was an exceptionally productive month, it accurately represents the kind of economic development that’s been seen in Arkansas over the past four years,” the governor told his radio audience.
“With the leadership of Mike Preston and his team at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, we have signed more than 400 economic development deals, which produced 17,000 jobs, and more than $8 billion in capital investment. Our total job growth since January 2015 is over 80,000,” Hutchison said, adding. “This doesn’t happen by accident. I have traveled nearly 90,000 miles and visited eight countries. We have forged solid trust-based relationships with business leaders all over the world.”
“But our most important selling point is the people of Arkansas,” the governor concluded. “Without exception, the CEOs who have chosen to do business in Arkansas talk about the strength of our workforce. Arkansans work hard, and over the past four years, many have taken advantage of educational opportunities to learn new skills that are crucial in our rapidly developing high-tech economy.”
DRAGON WOODLAND SAWMILL REOPENS IN HELENA-WEST HELENA
Recently, Dragon Woodland Sawmill held a grand opening at its 120-acre sawmill in Helena-West Helena, purchased in April 2018.
“Our company has a reputation for being professional, reliable and efficient,” said Operating Manager Shane Martin, “and when looking to expand, we found that Helena-West Helena was rich with abundant resources—both natural and human—that would continue to build on that legacy.”
Dragon Woodland purchased the former “Chicago” mill and has since invested $10 million in rebuilding the facility and purchasing new equipment. At peak production, the former mill employed more than 1,500 workers during World War II to build crates to ship munitions overseas. Dragon Woodland Sawmill Corporation has expanded the facility and updated equipment, creating approximately 75 new jobs in the Arkansas Delta.
“With nearly 19 million acres of forestland, the rich timber resources in Arkansas make the area attractive for growing companies like Dragon Woodland Sawmill,” said Hutchinson. “We are thrilled to welcome them to the state, where they will find abundant timber they need and some 28,000 workers skilled in the industry.”
Dragon Woodland Sawmill mills mostly red oak, white oak, ash, hickory, gum, poplar, cherry, sycamore and black walnut. In addition to domestic sales, they also export product to China and other Asian countries. Sister companies that support the facility are DragonFly logging and DragonFly trucking, also located in Helena-West Helena.
Along with the purchase of a logging and trucking company, the Helena-West Helena facility has enabled Dragon Woodland Sawmill to double its output capacity. The site also will store and ship materials to other contractors, to include flooring, furniture and other various wood factories domestically.
“We’re proud to welcome Dragon Woodland Sawmill and applaud its reopening of the sawmill,” said Helena-West Helena Mayor Kevin Smith. “Our hardworking citizens look forward to supporting the company and exemplifying how rich the Delta is in regards to resources and opportunities for growth.”
COORSTEK BREAKS GROUND ON EXPANSION IN BENTON
CoorsTek Inc., a privately-owned manufacturer of technical ceramic components, broke ground today on a 50,000-square-foot expansion at its facility in Benton, AR, that will amount to $26 million in capital investments. As part of the expansion, CoorsTek will increase its workforce by approximately 15 percent.
“CoorsTek is pleased to announce expansion of our Benton facility. This expansion will provide new jobs supporting the aerospace and defense industries, and supporting manufacturing in central Arkansas,” said Jonathan Coors, co-chief executive officer at CoorsTek. “As we continue to grow globally, we are committed to the long-term strength of the local communities where we live and work.”
CoorsTek is headquartered in Golden, CO, near the foothills west of Denver. The company’s rich history dates back more than 100 years and has grown to include almost 5.4 million square feet of manufacturing space on three continents.
“I am thrilled to see a company like CoorsTek grow and prosper in Arkansas,” said Hutchinson. “CoorsTek is a great example of an advanced manufacturing company that has put its faith in our talented and dedicated workforce. I look forward to a great relationship for many years to come.”
In addition to a new 50,000-square-foot facility, CoorsTek plans on purchasing several cutting edge pieces of manufacturing equipment to support growing demand for aerospace and defense-related industries. It currently has 180,000 square feet of manufacturing space and employs more than 200 people in Benton.