Arkansas: Closing The Deal

A steady stream of new and expanding business keeps Arkansas moving, backed by a great quality of life.

By BF Editors
From the May/June 2022 Issue

Key industries in Arksansas include metals, food and beverage, aerospace and defense, timber and forest products, technology, firearms and ammunition, distribution and logistics, transportation equipment, and corporate and shared services. The Natural State has been seeing growth in these industries listed, and beyond.

In 2022, the metals industry is in the spotlight with several significant projects announced. In February, United States Steel Corporation broke ground in Osceola on the company’s next-generation highly sustainable and technologically advanced steel mill. The $3 billion steelmaking facility will be the most advanced in North America and largest private project in the history of Arkansas.

Steel industry companies are making significant investments into the state of Arkansas, boosting the position of the metals industry in The Natural State. (Photo: 
Arkansas Economic Development Commission)

“Several years ago, we embarked on a transformative vision for U. S. Steel,” said U. S. Steel President & CEO David B. Burritt. “Now, we celebrate, as we take another significant step forward in becoming the steel company of the future. This facility is engineered to bring together the most advanced technology, to create the steel mill of the future that delivers profitable sustainable solutions for our customers.”

The new plant will be adjacent to U. S. Steel’s Big River Steel. The two facilities will be known as Big River Steel Works. The new plant is expected to bring 900 plant jobs to the area. State, county, and local officials, along with key business partners Entergy and BNSF, joined U. S. Steel President & CEO David B. Burritt to celebrate this investment.

“It is with great pride that we break ground on U. S. Steel’s latest endeavor in Arkansas,” Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said. “Once this mill reaches full production, Mississippi County will be the largest steel-producing county in the nation.”

Project completion and full operation is anticipated by 2024. Upon completion, the project will apply to become LEED® certified.

Another investment in Arkansas’ metal industry comes from Atlas Tube, a division of Zekelman Industries, which has opened its newest steel mill in Blytheville. The company’s second in Blytheville, the new facility will be dedicated to producing Jumbo Hollow Structural Sections (HSS) as large as 28” OD with walls up to 1” thick.

“Thanks to companies like Atlas Tube, Mississippi County continues to lead the country as a premier steel producer,” Governor Asa Hutchinson said. “Their $150 million will go a long way to improving the quality of life for Arkansans not only in Blytheville, but also the surrounding areas. We are thrilled to celebrate with Atlas Tube today and look forward to many great things ahead.”

The new mill is expected to create over 75 new jobs in the community.

In Other Industry News

Food and beverage has also gotten a boost recently with Hostess Brands, Inc. announcing it will convert an idled factory in Arkadelphia into a state-of-the-art bakery. The bakery is expected to be operational in the second half of 2023 and bring approximately 150 new jobs over the next three years.

Hostess Brands, whose iconic snack foods include Donettes®, Twinkies®, CupCakes and Ding Dongs®, as well as Voortman® cookies and wafers, plans to invest $120 million to $140 million to transform the 330,000-square-foot facility.

Hostess Brands’ decision to renovate an existing building will reduce the company’s costs for the new bakery as well as minimize environmental impacts.

“We are emphasizing a sustainability-first approach to this project while leveraging best practices from across our network of bakeries and we anticipate this bakery will be our most efficient and greenest operation yet,” said Andy Callahan, President and CEO of Hostess Brands.

“We are grateful for the help and support that we received from the city of Arkadelphia and the Arkadelphia Alliance, Clark County, the state of Arkansas and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, and the partnerships we have entered into with these entities. We look forward to welcoming new team members to our newest bakery when it becomes operational in 2023 and to becoming a part of the Arkadelphia community.”

And in the capital city of Little Rock, the sale of 15 acres to a new manufacturer was approved this spring. The Little Rock Board of Directors held a special meeting to approve the land deal and a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement for Synthesia.

Little Rock, Arkansas
The skyline of Arkansas’ capital city, Little Rock. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Synthesia Technology Inc., will invest approximately $29 million in the construction and equipment for a new facility, and plans to hire 50 new full-time employees over the next three-years. The new facility represents Synthesia’s first U.S.-based manufacturing operation for the production of insulated products supporting the construction materials industry.

Strategically located in the Port of Little Rock, the site was chosen due a variety of factors, including supply chain efficiency, access to markets, and the availability of a highly-skilled available labor force. The Company plans to break ground in July and being hiring by the fourth quarter of this year.

The project has also qualified for two performance-based incentive programs through the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) — the Tax Back Program and the Advantage Arkansas Program.

“We are excited to be growing forward by adding another new corporate resident to the Port of Little Rock, continuing the strong trend of growth and continuing to make it a major source of employment not just for our community but for residents of 22 counties across Arkansas,” said City of Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. “The modern manufacturing of Synthesia adds to the international, technological, and economic footprint within Little Rock bringing more diversity and opportunity to our state’s capital city.”

“It is always exciting to welcome a new company to the Port,” said Joe Bailey, chairman of the Little Rock Port Authority. “This is yet another example of how proactive preparation through Entergy’s Select Site program positioned us to move quickly to secure this project. In addition to their physical presence, Synthesia will be a rail user and we look forward to supporting them for years to come.”

Livability In The Natural State

According to the 2021-2022 HireAHelper U.S. Migration Report, Arkansas was the #1 state moved into, by ratio, during 2021, with 44% more people moving into the state than moving out.

The State of Arkansas is welcoming newcomers and to those moving back to The Natural State alike. To encourage individuals to move to the state, Arkansas Economic Development Commission partnered with the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism in 2021 on a new talent recruitment campaign called See Why Arkansas.